Multi-Pronged Solutions: How to turn problems into opportunities

Last week we looked at the 6Ms as a technique for doing root cause analysis. If you happened to miss it, check it our here. This week I want to look at what we do after we’ve performed our root cause analysis. Primarily, I want us to look at the concept of Multi-Pronged Solutions. Here’s what I mean by that. The most effective solutions are never just a one and done type of deal. Occasionally they are, but for real problems, the ones that leave us scratching our heads and require a deep root cause analysis, like the ones that we have to face managing a plant or machine shop, those problems are going to require robust and multi-pronged solutions.

Here are a couple of reasons why multi-pronged solutions are necessary. First off, Big Problems require Big Solutions. Let’s go back to the manufacturing issue I referenced in the previous article on 6M problem solving, the cracked light fixtures. By looking at our 6M root cause analysis we can see that there are actually multiple causes for why the lights are failing; ranging from operator inexperience and lack of training to improper tools being available in the work cell. There’s no one solution that’s going to cover all of those causes. Odds are, your team will have to come up with several in order to cover as many of the root causes as possible.

The second reason for multi-pronged solutions is that solving issues like the one above may require personnel and expertise from multiple departments or teams. Having multiple solutions for a single manufacturing issue allows the issue owner to oversee and coordinate solution efforts without anyone team or person being a bottleneck for the problem solving process.

So what would a potential multi-pronged solution look like? Every issue or problem is unique and is going to require a unique approach, but lets go over some solutions using the example from the 6Ms post.

The first part of the solution would be containment. This would involve trying to find all units that may have been affected by the problem. Ideally these would be caught before they leave the plant and are invoiced to the customer. Containment allows your team to check units and repair issues before they go down stream.

The second part of the solution would be repairing the contained damaged units that are already down stream.

A third prong of the solution would be prevention. This is where your team begins to bring in the insights gained from root cause analysis. In our example prevention itself could be several solutions. One part could be updating standard work and placing it in an appropriate place in the work cell. Another could be training operators on the new standard work procedures. A third could be updating to the tools in the work cell to hand screwdrivers or electric screwdrivers with adjustable torque outputs to prevent over tightening.

A fourth prong of the solution is improvement. Here is where solving manufacturing issues goes from being corrective or preventative to being a starting point for improving processes. Odds are by this time your team has been heavily involved in the process and likely has gained a lot of insight into it. You’ve looked at the work cell, the tools, the training the operator receives. Your team is in a great place to start making improvements to the work process. This is where the solution to the problem can create kaizens or continuous improvement opportunities.

Multi-pronged solutions are the way your team goes from playing defense to playing offense. Instead of just fixing problems your actually creating opportunities to actually improve. Your team isn’t just problem solving to return to the status quo, but to actually move the bar forward in regards to operational excellence. This is the real value of multi-pronged solutions, you get to actually improve processes in a real way.

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