Using LEAN 5M+E to Discover Probable Causes

Updated: Jun 9, 2020

A simple yet powerful way to discover causes to process problems is using the LEAN 5M+E (or 6M Six Sigma) analysis technique. This approach considers 6 categories that can contribute to problems:

  • Man (human related issues)

  • Machine (computer related)

  • Materials (documents, drawings, standards, specifications)

  • Methods (techniques, approaches, procedures)

  • Measurement (data, units, metrics, KPIs)

  • Environment (mother nature)

A combination of using a Fishbone Diagram and 5 Whys can be used to brainstorm through these categories to produce a list of possible causes for the effect (problem) .

To get started, a process walk through using the 5M+E as a guide can produce a preliminary list that can serve as a road map for further investigation and process improvement. The following chart is an example of a process review looking into why there is a bottleneck in engineering when processing design changes for MOCs (Management of Change):

What is important and often most difficult is coming up with a good problem statement. The better the problem is described the better the solutions. You also get better results by doing this as a team with those involved in the process. Those that are most familiar with the process will know best what the issues are and have ideas on how they can be improved.

Plan-Do-Check-Act Questions:

  1. What processes problems do you experience that could benefit from using this technique?

  2. Which set of problems generate the greatest impact (you may need to do a Pareto Analysis)?

  3. Which of the highest impact problems could you conduct a process walk through using 5M+E?

  4. What step can you take today towards conducting this review?


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