The first time I ever participated on a root cause analysis team (RCA), the team and I gathered in a room and debated about what happened and how to solve the problem for two hours. Have you ever been involved in a similar situation?
This meeting resulted in us returning again the next day because we discovered that every solution we thought of was ineffective. Unfortunately, based on the evidence that we found about the machine failure once we visited the production floor our hypothesis about the root causes of the failure were invalid.
From that experience I learned that you cannot find the root cause with collaborative hypothesis and logic alone. You must investigate and verify. Then I thought to myself, “Hey! This is TPM! I know I’m not the first one to come to this conclusion! I wonder if there is a step process methodology for the basis of problem solving?” Well, as it has been stated in another popular book that I like to read…the Bible, “seek and ye shall find.” My search lead me to finding the 5G theory.
The first “G” is called the Gemba. The gemba is the location where the incident actually occurred…..at the SOURCE of the problem, which may not be where the majority of the losses occurred. It is critical that your team start by collectively going to the gemba to start your investigation. It is especially important for the members of the team that have the most experience and/or management to lead this effort. Everyone needs to have the same perspective and knowledge of the current equipment areas that are being investigated. During the visit to the Gemba the remaining 4 “G” should be considered by your team.
The second “G” is known as Genbutsu. While at the gemba, your team should examine the equipment parts and materials that were involved in the equipment failure. In most cases, the part may have been removed and replaced before the team has gathered. Therefore, your team has to be sure to keep the failed part handy to perform a sort of mechanical autopsy to see if you can find any clues as to how the part failed.
The third “G” is Genjitsu. For this step, your team must gather all the data available about the process, equipment and materials before and after the equipment failure. This data will play a key part in linking facts behind the evidence that the team sees and what really happened. Data sources should include variable control data from the line event data system as well as testimonials from the technicians that were operating the line during the time of the incident.
The fourth “G” represents Genri. Having the theory of operation available while your team is gathering data about the equipment is key in being able to reference the correct movement of the equipment, the correct conditions, and required control variable settings. This will help your team clearly see “how the equipment is different from ideal condition?” Typically, your team member that is a representative of the maintenance department takes the lead in utilizing the theory of operation as their expertise is very well suited to also verify that the contents of the document itself are still valid.
The fifth “G” is Gensoku. There is a chance that the equipment didn’t just fail because it reached its design life or because it was poorly manufactured. Due to this fact the team must also have knowledge of the operating procedures that govern the actions of the machine operator and verify that “Man” actions did not lead to the equipment failure. You should reference your company’s Standard Operating Procedures, One Point Lessons, Standard Work Instructions or similar procedural documentations while investigating the operators or mechanics involved with the equipment leading up to its failure.
Utilizing the “5G Principles” truly took my ability to lead a team during an RCA to another level. The use of 5G in combination with access to a robust root cause analysis tool allowed me to drive many issues to root cause and execute sustainable and systematic solutions. As a result, the process became more stable and working on the line became just a little less chaotic and stressful.
About the Author
Patrick T Anderson is a leader and practitioner of Continuous Improvement in manufacturing with over 18 years of experience. During this time, he has trained, coached, and audited hundreds of people on Lean Methodology and led teams to deliver millions in hard savings to the companies he has served. Patrick is the founder of OpExApps, Inc. in which he has turned his passion for programming technology to develop systems to make the application of continuous improvement simpler and more efficient. Patrick is an alumnus of Florida A&M University and Xavier University, from which he obtained his B.S. Chemical Engineering and MBA degrees respectively.
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