Every industry has its own tools of the trade – carpenters use hammers, teachers use books, and lean businesses use a collection of reports, charts, diagrams, and statistical methods. These lean tools help practitioners enhance the value of their products and services while eliminating waste.
The learning and practice of using Lean tools creates both a mindset and a practical way to manufacture products where the steady elimination of waste ultimately creates a better product and enriches customer satisfaction.
Mark Brown, Ph.D., Master Blackbelt, and Master Instructor for Kettering University Online, has an expansive history of using Lean tools and techniques. He explains that the top lean manufacturing tools are the A3 Form and a collection of 12 graphical tools that convert data to information.
Consider instances when it would be helpful to see several pieces of discrete information in one sweeping glance. An A3 report is a basic communication tool where you can see an organizational chart, a set of directions, or even a schedule all on one sheet of paper.
The name “A3” is taken from the size of the paper on which the report is printed (“A3” or 11 x 17 inches) and is one of several Lean problem solving tools. It aids in providing a structured way of thinking about and communicating a problem concisely as well as its solution.
Those working with Lean also use the following graphical tools. The Six Sigma Study Guide provides a brief definition of each:
- Value Stream Mapping (VSM)
Value stream mapping provides a visual representation of the flow of materials and information throughout the organization, helping to identify, demonstrate, reduce waste and create effective flow through all the processes in the manufacturing organization. It consists of the process flows starting from the raw materials to make the product finally available in the hands of the customers.
- Cause and Effect Analysis
Created by Karo Ishikawa, Quality Control Expert, this analysis is sometimes known as the Fishbone Diagram. The pictorial diagram shows possible causes (process inputs) for a given effect (process outputs). This tool facilitates the brainstorming needed to identify the root causes of the problem
- Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA)
The Failure Mode and Effects Analysis is a tool used to for identifying all the potential failures in a design, manufacturing or assembly process or product or service.
- Quality Function Deployment (QFD)
Those working in lean use this tool to help transform customer needs into engineering characteristics for a particular product or service. This tool basically translates user requirements and requests into product designs.
- Pareto Chart
This chart was named after Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian engineer. The bar chart re-orders categories so they are rank-ordered from the largest total occurrences to the smallest as this helps identify the most frequently occurring problems or defects.
- Control Diagrams
Control Diagrams provide a picture of a particular flow within a specific business process over time. It documents the process from beginning to end so it becomes easier to see variation or identify problem areas so corrective action can begin. Recognizing and responding to operational problems quickly and efficiently is the underlying theme of perfection, and an integral part of the Lean paradigm.
- Scatter Diagrams
Scatter Diagrams,also called Scatter Plot Graphs, are graphical tools used to show a specific relationship between two variables. The dots on the Scatter Diagram or Scatter Plot represent data points from which one can infer a patterns.
- Correlation Analysis
This statistical tool measures the strength of the linear relationship between two or more variables. This analysis aids in identifying the input variables that have the highest impact of the process output.
- Design of Experiments
This is a systematic method to determine the relationship between factors. A solid design aids in findingcause and effect relationships.
Histograms are frequency charts showing the distribution of values produced by a process. This is visual display of how much variation exists in a process.
- Run Chart
A run chart is a basic graph displaying observed data as they evolve over time. This can be useful for identifying trends or shifts in a process but also allows for testing for randomness in the process
- Gage R & R
Gage Repeatability and Reproducibility, is a statistical tool measuring the amount of variation in the measurement system arising from the measurement device and the people taking the measurement. Basically, Gage R & R measures the measurement error in measurement systems.
The goal of the Lean process is to keep creating value in products and services used by clients and customers, while eliminating waste and removing potential defects. The statistical analyses, forms, and graphical tools used in Lean manufacturing offer flexible business and manufacturing processes for all types of industry. The A3 Report, combined with the other tools referenced , work in concert with other lean concepts to achieve all manner of improvements in production and operational efficiency.