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Terry Finlow-Bates Bert Visser and Christine Finlow-Bates
The authors Terry Finlow-Bates and Christine Finlow-Bates are codirectors of Endeavour Management Services. Bert Visser is from the Rijnconsult organisation. Together they form part of a team which focuses on facilitating TPM programmes. Keywords Problem solving, TQM, Techniques, Total productive maintenance Abstract Successful total quality management (TQM) is dependent on first class problem solving. Numerous techniques have been created to help the TQM practitioner along the problem solving journey. However, it can be very difficult to decide which of these techniques should or could be used at any point in the journey and in particular to see how the different approaches are related to each other. As a result, most people use only a small number of these techniques and tend to cling to their own limited toolbox. Three of the strongest groups of tools are ``the seven simple tools of TQM'', ``the four thinking models of Kepner-Tregoe'' and ``root cause analysis''. This article argues that all three are complementary to each other and provides a flow chart to help navigate between them. This is particularly relevant for programmes aimed at implementing total productive manufacturing/ maintenance (TPM). Electronic access The research register for this journal is available at http://www.mcbup.com/research_registers/ quality.asp The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at http://www.emerald-library.com
The TQM Magazine Volume 12 . Number 4 . 2000 . pp. 284±289 # MCB University Press . ISSN 0954-478X
Problem solving lies at the heart of (total) quality management. The continuous process of identifying and eliminating the causes of inefficiency and ineffectiveness in business and production processes has, along with technological improvements, driven much of the increased standard of living we now enjoy. Hence it is not surprising that most organisations quote problem solving skills as a vital talent and require their people to expand their competencies in this area. However, an armoury of formal tools and techniques soon turns into an alphabet soup of acronyms. Different specialists, consultants and academics tend to swear by their own preferred solutions, often at the expense of other techniques. Some promote the ``seven simple tools'' of TQM. Others prefer RCA (root cause analysis), FMEA (failure mode and effect analysis), or fault trees. Yet another popular methodology is that of K-T created by, and named after, the US social scientists Charles Kepner and Benjamin Tregoe. We are enthusiastic practitioners of the K-T approach. However, this does not automatically lead us to exclude all other approaches. It is not a case of either/or but rather of and/and. In our experience a combination of the ``seven simple tools'', ``RCA'' and ``K-T'' provides an unequalled framework for tackling almost any problematical situation. This paper discusses the synergies between these three problem solving techniques and provides a flow chart for navigating between them. Although relevant in all business settings, these three ways of dealing with problems are particularly powerful for organisations attempting to introduce a programme of total productive maintenance/manufacturing (TPM).
Total productive maintenance/ manufacturing (TPM)
Let us begin with TPM. Since World War II a typical organisational structure has evolved whereby senior management provides the production assets, the production department runs them and the technical service department maintains them. The result is often an organisation at war with itself. Management seeks a high and relatively rapid return on capital employed, production 284
``drive belt breaks''. the failure is merely repaired. is the creation of a system that focuses on maximising the effectiveness of the equipment over the full life cycle of the assets. a mechanical or electrical fault in the process itself. one expects to be earning major returns long after the capital has been written off for taxation purposes. All the opinions and speculations that circulate in an organisation concerning the causes of the problem can then be tested systematically against this specification and the most likely causes isolated for further verification.An integrated approach to problem solving Terry Finlow-Bates. It forces you to ask systematically all the crucial questions needed to identify potential failures. Bert Visser and Christine Finlow-Bates The TQM Magazine Volume 12 . on specification. This often leads to heavy pressure being brought to bear on operators and middle managers to take quick action to rectify the difficulty. The result is inevitably substantial waste and thus loss of profitability. 1. unfortunately being implemented too slowly in some industries. However. in the interest of restoring production as quickly as possible. if these causes appear it is almost impossible to have only a ``minor'' problem. or ``motor burnt out'' can be a result of a range of deeper failures such as poor equipment choice. There are a number of approaches but all go under the general term of TPM. If you feel they are of use then you are advised to go to the original sources. By continually attempting to extend the ``mean time between failure'' (MTBF) of all components of the installation. 2000 . please note that a detailed description from which you could expect to apply the techniques is beyond the scope of this paper. 284±289 focuses on daily throughput and production targets and technical services tries to meet the twin goals of preserving the asset and keeping the wheels turning on a day to day basis. It is this continuous cycle of breakdown and repair that lowers asset availability and drives up costs. ``mixer blade breaks off''. at lowest cost. augmented with K-T/RCA problem analysis. The ultimate aim is for both production and technical services departments to work together in order to maximise asset availability and limit costs over the full lifetime of that asset. Given the high speeds of modern production processes. In such a climate management team meetings are almost inevitably confrontational and focus on short term fire-fighting and immediate results. catalogue their possible causes and generate controls to minimise these risks. installation errors or operational malpractice. namely when ``product is not on specification''. It is here that TQM thinking. there is another source of information that can help. The result can be that they fall into the ``special cause/general cause trap'' described by the quality gurus such as Shewhart and Deming (1986). Everyone has the same overall goal ± maximum production. The solution. The potential problem analysis (PPA) strategy of K-T provides the ideal framework for constructing a TPM system. But first we need a better understanding of the three approaches and what each one offers. Once verified. Too often. actions can be taken to prevent the failure from recurring so readily in the future. followed very similar and often counter-intuitive strategies when faced 285 . The K-T ``is/is not'' problem analysis strategy supported by RCA is unparalleled at identifying the real nature of these deeper causes. It provides a set of questions and steps whereby one can create an accurate description of the problem ± the so-called ``problem specification''. Such failure modes as ``bearings fail''. Number 4 . over the whole lifetime of the asset. However. It can be the result of some or all of a plethora of causes such as poor feedstock quality. The deeper causes need to be identified and eliminated if this cycle is to be broken. A vital element of the TPM philosophy is the recognition of a mechanical or electrical failure which has occurred repeatedly in the past. operational error. however. Deeper examination revealed that successful managers. can be the magic bullet. Ensuring non-recurrence of such failures (part of the PPA process) is a key strategy for increasing MTBFs and realising the goal of TPM. The authors had observed during their years of research that managers faced with identical information often made very different decisions of dramatically different quality. Kepner and Tregoe In 1965 the landmark best seller The Rational Manager was published by Charles Kepner and Benjamin Tregoe. This is not so well understood and fraught with the risk of misinterpretation because the actual causes can often be quite subtle and hard to find. lubrication faults.
we do not know the cause and we would like to know. This can then be verified in practice. There can be a chain of these. The pipe was corroded by acid. 284±289 with difficult situations. When we construct a single diagram of these interlocking chains we sometime use the term Table I A problem specification following the Kepner-Tregoe model Is What Where When Excess vibration in turbine 3 At third coupling Since last Friday During start-up but only sometimes 40 per cent over allowable limit Is not Turbine 1 and 2 At first and second coupling Earlier At every start-up During normal operation 100 per cent over allowable limit Magnitude 286 . The key to the method is the choice of the criteria the decision should meet before alternatives are generated. so that priorities can be decided and which of the other three thinking models is appropriate to tackle them. choosing the solution can be done using decision analysis.g. It then records what could be exhibiting the same problem but is not (turbines 1 and 2). By looking at the differences between the is and the is not data. Each of these failed controls can have its own tangible causal chain. we have a ``deviation from the norm''. In the case above possible failed controls are: poor metal choice for the pipe. It goes on to ask where (at the third coupling). the one that can best explain the specification. focuses on the present. Bert Visser and Christine Finlow-Bates The TQM Magazine Volume 12 . operator not wearing mask etc. 1998). decision analysis (DA). This consists of a list of what exactly is suffering the problem and the deviation that is being experienced (e.An integrated approach to problem solving Terry Finlow-Bates. (4) The final technique. so that the pipe burst. turbine 3 is suffering excess vibration). The technique is incredibly successful for tackling problems that tend to keep recurring and where the deviation is very obvious. (2) The problem analysis (PA) tool looks back in time. one can generate a range of possible causes and select the most likely i. or at least limit the damage if signs of failure appear. looks to the future and asks what could go wrong during the implementation of our decision. inspection failed to detect thinning of the pipe. In short. thereby releasing gases which lowered the partial pressure of oxygen which caused the operator to suffocate. The is not is then extended with the where not (first and second coupling). (3) The next tool. Number 4 . when not (during normal operation) and the magnitude it is not (100 per cent over the allowable limit). oxygen pressure not measured. The technique examines in detail the so-called ``specification'' of the problem (see Table I). It examines further what can we do to prevent failure.e. Kepner and Tregoe captured and refined these strategies into four thinking tools. In the jargon of the technique. Something that operated well in the past now seems to be failing and we do not know the cause. the potential problem analysis (PPA). Once the cause of a problem has been identified using problem analysis. now colloquially termed a ``K-T analysis'' by its practitioners: (1) The process begins with a situation appraisal (SA). Root cause analysis This has been discussed elsewhere in detail (Finlow-Bates. when (during start up) and finally the magnitude of the deviation (40 per cent over the allowable limit). RCA divides causes into two groups: (1) Tangible causes ± the physical failure that has led to the unwanted effect. The elements of the situation causing concern are identified. There are many similarities between PPA and failure mode and effect analysis (FMEA). 2. 2000 . (2) Failed controls ± opportunities that were missed to break the tangible chain. Considerable effort is also made to assess the risks associated with any promising alternatives.
the next point is liable to jump outside the general boundaries. Off-spec product is often not the result of a single exceptional cause and it is here that the seven simple tools of TQM are required as a precursor to K-T/RCA. In these cases. This is a critical moment for problem solvers. Without going into too much detail. Bert Visser and Christine Finlow-Bates The TQM Magazine Volume 12 . leaking valve. of such causes deeply embedded in the process. so-called ``special'' cause gets added to the system (sub-standard feed. Pressure and temperature gauges have tolerance limits and even in chip manufacturing plants air temperatures. if not hundreds. Final product quality is a function of dozens. It is physically impossible to produce everything exactly on the norm. blocked dosimeter etc. Shewhart established that if sample points fell more than three standard deviations from the mean. RCA in combination with K-T problem analysis can be applied. The willingness of customers to quote USLs and LSLs is recognition of this reality of life. (2) Control. then a special cause had most probably entered the system and put it out of control. And the catch? A point can lie outside the specification limits for one of two reasons. The answer is based on what they can tolerate as an input to their own processes or sell to their own customers. convention says your process is just capable when the difference between USL and LSL is the same as six times one standard deviation of your product quality.An integrated approach to problem solving Terry Finlow-Bates. We talk of a desired norm with upper and lower specification limits (USL and LSL). And so it is now possible to pull the whole story together. The aim of constructing these fault trees is to find the point in the chain where we can intervene in a responsible way to stop the problem recurring. However. If you are going to consistently deliver quality there are two essential concepts you need to grasp: (1) Capability. Number 4 . then your process is said to be incapable of consistently producing quality. We can use the SPC charts to recognise if we are dealing with a special cause new to the system. In situations where the operator suffocated. 284±289 ``fault trees''. If a new. we must ask how they choose their acceptable US and LS limits. Either the process is fundamentally incapable or a special cause has entered the system and it is no longer under control. 3. If you plot product quality against time. It is left as your responsibility to see that these tolerances are met ± and here lies the catch. Unfortunately. To tackle ``product off-spec'' due to an incapable process we need the seven simple tools. failed pressure regulator. TQM and the seven simple tools Most customer orders come with permitted tolerances. To tackle ``product off-spec'' due to a special cause. the quality of a product in a manufacturing process is often influenced by a plethora of possible causes acting in concert. If we decide that the current variation in product quality is too great and thus some 287 . If your process runs in a stable fashion for long periods of time influenced only by general causes it is said to be under control. K-T problem analysis and potential problem analysis can be used to catalogue and control machine failures and to provide the stable system required for the application of control charts to monitor product quality.). RCA followed and/or supported by K-T is our preferred choice. If during normal operation your process produces a spread in quality that sometimes lies outside your US and/ or LS limits. the turbine stopped or the fan belt came off we are usually dealing with a single tangible cause in combination with one or more failed controls. Feedstocks and purchased parts vary in quality and your own production machinery and operators display their own set of variabilities in performance as well. 2000 . These so-called ``general causes'' of variation sometimes work together to push the quality produced towards the USL and other times they conspire to create product closer to the LSL. the result is a diagram that runs between relatively clear boundaries and does not vary much in character with time. The K-T problem analysis can then be used to help track down this special cause. humidities and dust counts wobble around the desired set points. The solution Good total productive manufacturing starts with an appreciation of the realities outlined above.
284±289 product is off-specification due to the accumulation of common causes. Figure 1 provides a decision flow chart indicating how 288 . If this fails to establish the root cause then the is/is not data of What. Figure 1 A problem solving flowchart for total productive manufacturing Once a problem is isolated in this way. What we are doing is making the common cause specific. This specification can be used to select the most likely cause. When and Magnitude can be assembled to form a K-T problem analysis specification.An integrated approach to problem solving Terry Finlow-Bates. We must first ``stratify'' the data and use a pareto analysis to pin down more specifically where the problem and its common cause are located. Bert Visser and Christine Finlow-Bates The TQM Magazine Volume 12 . Where. 2000 . then the other tools of SPC can be used to analyse the data further. Number 4 . the RCA approach can be applied.
1 pp. The Rational Manager. B.E. (1986). Bert Visser and Christine Finlow-Bates The TQM Magazine Volume 12 . MIT Press. References Deming.B. Kepner. (1998).H.An integrated approach to problem solving Terry Finlow-Bates. The TQM Magazine. T. ``The root cause myth''. However. Princeton Research Press. Commentary A review of some useful problem289 . Finlow-Bates.H. It will not only help solve the tangible problems afflicting your business but also help you avoid making serious ``people errors'' and unwittingly creating a blame culture. bring you a very long way on your TPM journey. The New Rational Manager.B. B. Out of the Crisis. 284±289 these approaches are linked to each other. (1965). W. C. (1997). we have found that even the simple flow chart given here will. and Tregoe. 10 No. Vol. 10-15. At Rijnconsult we work with a range of such charts to make the choice of tools and techniques in improvement initiatives both accurate and easy. Kepner. 2000 . Number 4 . and Tregoe. on its own. Princeton Research Press. C.
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