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Using LEAN 5M+E to Discover Probable Causes

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.


An Example


In highly regulated, high-risk industries organizations must use a Management of Change (MOC) process to assess and mitigate risk due to planned changes.


This process typically follows a multi-step procedure which often bottlenecks during the design activities when engineers look to solutions to effect change while maintaining design integrity of the process, assets, and the plant:


Mangement of Change - Bottleneck
Mangement of Change - Bottleneck

The following chart is an example of a process review using the 5M+E model looking into why there is a bottleneck in engineering when processing design changes for MOCs (Management of Change):


Using 5M and E to Discover Probable Cause
Using 5M and E to Discover Probable Cause

Using this approach, probable causes were identified which were addressed by the process improvement team to reduce the bottleneck.


What to look out for


What is important and often most difficult when solving problems is coming up with a good problem statement.


As some have said,


A problem well stated is half solved.

In addition, the better the problem is described the better the solutions.


Defining the problem with those who are experiencing the problem also yields better results. Those who are most familiar with the process will know best what the issues are and have ideas on how they can be improved.

Here are a few questions you might consider when using 5M+E in your process analysis:


  1. What processes could benefit from using this technique?

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

  3. What steps can you take today to start using this approach in your organization?

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