By Christian Green, Kepner-Tregoe

Daily management of manufacturing processes allows defined, standardized processes to be monitored, controlled and improved. The key metrics that provide insights into manufacturing production relate to quantity, quality and costs.  Some operations focus on a handful of metrics that track key processes, while others track a dozen or more metrics.

When performance against these KPIs are off expectation, Daily Management demands that action be taken. Everyone needs to have some capabilities around problem solving. Providing the team with the capability and the time to help resolve issues builds commitment and focus. 

The diversity of problem types is matched by the wide range of problem-solving methods and tools used on the floor, so it can be difficult to know where to start. Just as not every home repair calls for a professional construction crew, not every production problem requires a Six Sigma project. Solving a problem effectively, efficiently and permanently demands an understanding of the type of problem that has arisen and then choosing the right tools to resolve it. The key is recognizing what kind of problem you are really facing and being able to pull the right tool from your problem-solving tool belt to fix it.

KT’s definition of a problem is:  A situation where expectations are not being met; we don’t know how to close the gap, and we need to know how to— in order to take meaningful corrective action. Recognizing the type of problem that has occurred helps problem solvers to quickly identify the problem scope and move towards possible causes.

At Kepner-Tregoe, we divide the kinds of problems into four main categories:

  1. A Deviation Problem occurs when something is not performing as it has in the past. There has been some deviation in performance, and we need to know the cause to resolve it. This can relate to the performance of a thing, like a machine, a process or a system, or a person.

  2. An Efficiency Problem is when you need to save resources, time, or money by improving the efficiency of a thing, a process, or person.

  3. A Variation Problem occurs when the performance of a process (manufacturing, human, electronic) shifts unexpectedly outside acceptable limits.

  4. An Innovation Problem is when you need to find a solution to something that is more than just an incremental change; it is breakthrough development that meets the end users’ needs and more.

Understanding what types of problem your team faces is the first step in an effective response. Deviation, Variation, and Efficiency problems are often tackled using traditional or analytic problem-solving approaches. Six Sigma, Lean, Fishbone, Five Whys, 8D and KT Problem Analysis are among the many in use.  Innovation Problems use more creative problem-solving approaches, such as Design Thinking.

To handle issues as they arise on a daily basis, team members need to understand the type of problem before them and have the tools to resolve the issue or describe the problem effectively for others to resolve.  Different methods and tools work better with different types of problems. Understanding the nature of a problem is the first step in solving it.

For more information of this topic: Test Your Problem Knowledge.

About Kepner-Tregoe

For over 60 years, Kepner-Tregoe has empowered thousands of companies to solve millions of problems. Kepner-Tregoe services are designed to permanently address organizational challenges with measurable results that improve quality and performance while reducing overall costs.