Where the method comes from
The method was developed by Toyota. "A3" comes from A3 size paper. The instrument is based on the Demings Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) method. It allows to visualise the information about an improvement in progress in a very concise way.
This is central
Like the 8D report, this tool offers a structured approach to problem solving. It brings together teams to work together to continuously improve their problem-solving skills and processes, and thus products. The method is used by teams that are directly confronted with the problem. It is used to solve simple problems and, given the limited time available, requires rigour and synthesis. The tool enables important information to be visualised quickly and this information to be made available to colleagues.
This is the procedure
The A3 report consists of 8 steps:
1. Define the problem or the conditions to be improved
2. Describe the current status
3. Define improvement targets
4. Determine the root causes
5. Development of corrective measures
6. Implement corrective measures
7. Confirm results
8. Standardise and improve
Start by forming a small group of people. Requirements: Knowledge of the process and/or product/service, skills in the technical disciplines required to solve the problem and time to participate in this analysis.
Step 1: Define the problem or conditions to be improved
Define the problem as a team by documenting it precisely and concisely, if possible with quantitative data.
Possible methods: Gemba, 5W.
Step 2: Describe the current status
The current status of the problem is refined within the team. Different methods can be used: 5W2H, actual process mapping, etc.
Step 3: Define improvement targets
Together, the team defines the objectives regarding the desired improvement, for example reduction of the number of errors per time unit, etc. If possible define SMART (specific, measurable, realistic and timely) objectives.
Step 4: Determine the causes
The team carries out a root cause analysis. Different methods can be used: 5W, Ishikawa, cause-effect diagram, data analysis, Pareto diagram, etc.
Once the potential causes are identified, the team evaluates the probability of each hypothesis occurring. The discussion can lead to consensus, agreement or a collection of facts and figures on the main possible causes. It is important to have experts from different disciplines in the team who are affected by the problem.
Step 5: Develop corrective actions
Develop corrective actions to reduce or eliminate the causes of the problem. If necessary, collect ideas from collaborators who did not participate in the analysis.
Ensure the commitment of all team members, process owners and other stakeholders.
Consider cost, time, quality, safety and environmental criteria.
For each validated measure, plan how its effectiveness can be verified and an implementation plan.
Possible methods: Poka Yoke, prioritisation matrix, visual management.
Step 6: Implement corrective measures
An action plan with clear responsibilities will be established: who does what and by when.
The implementation of the measures is monitored and the team ensures that all measures are carried out.
Step 7: Confirm results
The team monitors the results when implementing corrective measures.
Once everything has been completed, the team checks whether the effectiveness of the measures introduced is in line with the objectives set.
Step 8: Unify and improve
Changes are documented, work instructions and process control plans are updated. The affected employees are trained about the changes.
A lessons learned analysis is carried out to improve the A3 instrument within the organisation.
If this method is used to solve problems, an additional step is required after the step 3 where the problem has been defined. It consists in identifying immediate actions to prevent further problems in other projects, products, processes or departments.