Robert Aurelia, our purchasing aficionado at Probes Unlimited Inc, is currently attending a series of workshops to complete his Lean Level One Certification. The certification means that he will be versed in several technical and social tools that will aid PUI in our continuous lean journey for maintainable growth and productivity.

Over the course of these several weeks, Robert has reflected on some of the valuable and feasible changes that will be useful for PUI. Each week we will be looking at a new tool that Robert believes to be relatable to PUI. This week we will be talking about A3 Thinking. A3 Thinking is a method used to support businesses with problem-solving, control and continuous improvement of processes and products. It’s based on W. Edwards Deming’s method of P-D-C-A, (Plan, Do, Check, Act) and is also known as the Deming Cycle.

To prove the authenticity of the lesson, the class was separated in groups of 5, where they had to make airplanes out of LEGO bricks. The cell was set out of order on purpose and the teams were told to build in batches of 5. The only rule was that only one process would be built at a time. In other words, each person had to wait until the process before them had completed all 5 parts. They had 6 minutes to build as many as possible. Not surprisingly, this system was not successful. There were many parts partially built at all stages and their areas were cluttered and disorganized. After their unsuccessful bout, they began to discuss the methodologies behind A3 Thinking. Then they were asked to use their new principles to complete the exact same task. For this they used an A3 sheet. Essentially, a sheet of paper with multiple steps that identifies what the problems were. For round 2, they were encouraged to make adjustments. For this round they changed the order of operations, and converted to “one piece flow”. Amazingly, the results were remarkable. Robert commented that “the results were pretty impressive.  The first go around I believe our group had five finished planes and 15 in work in progress.  After another round of our A3 thinking, we completed 40 parts with only 4 parts in “WIP” in the same amount of time. “

All in all, he is a believer.