Problem-solving the 8D way

There are innumerable ways of resolving issues in production-line processes, writes Iain Robertson, although some of the best methods remain encased in stone, with origins dating back to the dawn of the motor industry.

Henry Ford is credited with establishing the parameters of line production. In fact, much of what he outlined and practised in the early part of the 20th Century is still exercised worldwide today and not merely in the automotive industry.

Naturally, production line techniques have been criticised roundly over the decades, not least for creating worker boredom, which can be a genuine ‘killer’. It is little wonder that quality issues arose. However, job-sharing and other work station improvements have made them more tolerable in the past 20-30 years and fresh alternatives are being introduced on a regular basis.

It is the perpetual search for greater efficiency that has led to a growth in chronic problems around the production line. As a result, a team was assigned at Ford Motor Company, in 1986, to develop a training manual and a positive route to resolving line issues. One year later, the TOPS, or Team Orientated Problem Solving, methodology was formulated and trialled.

In essence, the 8D process, as it became known, was devised to eradicate the problems, even though recurrence was sure to happen, wherever human interaction takes place, despite the focus of production line teams being directed at eliminating causal issues and implementing a permanent corrective action. Although it can boast carefully monitored applications, 8D is not foolproof and training is required, along with appropriate data collection and analysis, using Pareto charts, Fishbone diagrams and process maps. Yet, it is a system that is acknowledged and used across most automotive, food, healthcare and high-tech industries.

Naturally, every process requires a start point and the gateway to 8D, which we can call ‘D0’, where ‘D’ equates to ‘Discipline’, is to establish a working plan to solve a problem by determining the prerequisites.

Thereafter, the process looks as follows:

D1Establish a team of personnel possessing process, logistical or product knowledge.

D2 Describe the problem by asking quantifiable ‘open’ questions (who, why, what, where, when, which, how and how many).

D3 Develop interim containment actions in order to isolate the problem from any and all customers.

D4Define and verify both root causes and escape points that explain why the issue has arisen. It is important to understand why it occurred at all and why it was not noticed at the outset (Ishikawa diagrams can help to map causes).

D5 Choose and verify permanent corrective actions by using pre-production programs that can confirm quantitatively that a chosen corrective action will resolve a problem.

D6 Implement and validate corrective actions by using the most appropriate methods available.

D7 Prevent recurrence by modifying the management systems, the operating systems, worker practices and procedures.

D8 Team recognition is the final stage, making note of all personal contributions.
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