A3-Report - A3-Report
An A3 report is a form-like document template that is used to identify and find solutions to problems in quality management . It is used for process planning and optimization and includes not only images but also diagrams and graphics to enable a better understanding of the information to be analyzed.
The name goes back to the A3 paper format (11 ”× 17”) used, which enables a clear and adequate representation of the problem and its possible solutions. The A3 report is a quality management tool that is used in the continuous improvement process to develop suggestions for improvement and increase the competitiveness of a company. There are different types of A3 reports, which differ in their purpose depending on the type of application.
The A3 report became known through the multinational Toyota , which introduced it to optimize the company's performance. To date, it has not been surpassed by any other American company in terms of efficiency and effectiveness in the performance process. However, the A3 report has its origins outside of Toyota (Japan), the company's headquarters.
Historically, the development of the form has been influenced by several factors: The idea of creating a tool in the form of a single sheet of paper to summarize and represent an occurring problem goes back to the Romanian-American industrial engineer Joseph M. Juran , who pioneered quality management applies and was, among other things, a consultant to Mr. Toyoda (founder of the Toyota company).
Juran introduced the company to the PDCA cycle for management in the 1950s , which can be traced back to Deming's Plan-Do-Check-Act circle . In 1962, at the insistence of former President Chairman Eiji Toyoda, an official program for total quality control (TQC) was introduced, which includes stricter procedures for statistical quality control and a procedure composed of 12 measures and quality control activities in production and manufacturing summarizes.
Furthermore, the format was impaired by the top management of the company at the time, who preferred visual inspections and rejected long text-based reports. Toyota's Production System Implementation Manager Taiichi Ohno was known to fail to read reports that were over the size of a page.
Today Toyota uses the perfected A3 report for the structured representation of the PDCA management in order to enable a precise understanding of a problem and to find effective solutions.
The Din-A3 template is used in landscape format and is divided into two halves. In addition to a meaningful title that specifically describes the problem to be solved, the A3 report contains the four phases of the Deming circle . Only the plan phase is listed on the left and the Do, Check and Act phases for processing on the right. The implementation starts with the left side and is continued on the right side, whereby the content of the A3 repot represents a flowing narrative.
The four phases of the PDCA cycle
- Planning ( plan ): In the first phase it is necessary to document the problem and the current situation in the company and to identify possible causes. A clearly defined goal can be formulated from this and approaches to achieve this can be developed.
- Execution ( Do ): The Do phase includes the development of possible approaches to achieve the set goal.
- Verification ( Check ): The knowledge and results obtained when applying the approaches developed in the previous phase are recorded and compared with the expected results. In addition, it is necessary to control the effectiveness of the approaches to achieve the goal set in the planning phase. If the strategies worked out become ineffective, they must be modified.
- Intervention ( Act / Adjust ): The Act phase consists of the assessment and evaluation of the summarized results, as well as the creation of an assessment basis for further improvements.
Seven analysis and work steps
The format template is further subdivided into seven analysis and work steps that divide the A3 report into individual segments. The analysis steps 1-4 relate to the planning phase and are therefore listed on the left half of the sheet of paper for processing. Steps 5–7, on the other hand, include the phases Do, Check and Act and are therefore listed on the right-hand side of the paper. The seven analysis steps therefore go back to the PDCA cycle :
- Background information: The first step is to provide a clearly understandable description of a relevant problem and its effects in relation to the achievement of a company goal. All those involved are included in order to be able to understand the relevance of the problem for the success of a company and the reason for the desired problem solution.
- Current information: The description of the current situation contains detailed facts about the current status. In order to ensure a clear understanding of the data for the user, graphics, graphs and / or diagrams are often used in the A3 report, which enable the actual situation to be shown as easily as possible through visual design. Highlighted markings such as “lightning” indicate particularly important elements and key words. This should show the importance of the problem for the company. In addition, it is necessary to determine the origin of the defined problem in order to identify possible counter-indicators for achieving the goal.
- Target state: A clearly defined target state is necessary in order to develop a quick and effective solution to the existing challenge. Starting with an objective, the implementation of the measures to correct the problem is less complicated and leads to more effective solutions due to the backward thinking. The focus of the user on the target situation also enables control over the extent to which the approaches contribute to achieving the planned state. In this way, an inefficient work process can be counteracted immediately in order to save time and resources when working out solution strategies. In addition, developed solutions can be compared with regard to the target state and promising ones selected.
- Cause analysis: In addition to the Ishikawa diagram , the 5-W question method, which is used to determine cause-and-effect in quality management, is often used to show the reasons for the problem and the resulting actual state . The clear (visual) representation serves to show the causes so that all those involved understand them and can work out starting points for effective measures to remedy them. The aim of the root cause analysis is to determine the direct influencing factors on the problem and to eliminate the core causes.
- Countermeasures: The measures that are to be carried out to eliminate the causes of the problem and to improve the current situation in the long term are listed in a structured manner in this step. It also includes a justification for applying the planned actions. In order to present the countermeasures clearly and unambiguously, the five W-questions (How? When? Where? Who? What?) Are used as an aid.
- Effect on success: This step is used to review the process. It is examined whether the countermeasures applied led to the achievement of the goal. Clear graphical representations, such as before-and-after comparisons, are used to facilitate understanding. If the planned result is not achieved and there are deviations from the target, the reasons for the failure are worked out and analyzed.
- Standardization and follow-up: When processing the last step of the analysis, the entire procedure is assessed and targeted measures are determined. These are standardized and serve as the basis for the permanent maintenance and further improvement of the service creation process. In addition, the follow-up will consider to what extent the experience gained through the overall process can be applied to other problems and work areas or can be adopted by other organizations.
Goals and Benefits
- Quick recognition of the causes of problems: The application of the A3 report is used for quick recognition of the causes of problems in the creation process and their effective elimination in order to achieve a company goal. The A3 form is processed in such a way that it reflects the user's thought process, which requires the user to deal intensively with the problem before starting to fill it out.
- Clarity and comprehensibility: The clear presentation on a single sheet of paper, which is optimized through the use of visual diagrams, graphics and tables, offers an outstanding advantage. The presentation of complex data in a clear form ensures that employees understand the problem and its causes. This is important in order to develop and implement targeted improvement strategies in the continuous improvement process.
- Ability to work in a team: Since difficult facts are shown clearly and vividly, all participants can be integrated into the processing of the A3 report. In addition, the users are confronted with the collected facts when processing the individual steps and are encouraged to deal intensively with the problem, its effects and possible solutions. This enables a precise understanding of the problem and the development of a concept in the team for long-term and effective elimination of the root causes. Company employees learn to analyze problems and their causes in teamwork and to work out solution strategies together. This leads to better cooperation within but also between different departments and promotes effectiveness in the work process.
- Diversity and flexibility: Since the A3 report is not linked to strict specifications, but rather represents a variable template, it can be individually adapted to every company and every problem. This enables the development of a targeted and efficient solution strategy. In addition, the A3 report can be used to control projects and meetings, as the clear and visual representation of strategies shows their development and pursuit. In addition, several of these document templates can be linked to one another, which means that projects can be optimally coordinated.
- Change of competency: By using the A3 report in a company, the competency of employees is trained to independently solve and analyze problems and carry out complex tasks. In addition, cross-team and cross-departmental cooperation is strengthened, as identified problems can be exchanged and solution strategies can be worked out together. This serves the efficient and continuous improvement of the processes in a company.
Types of A3 reports
Different types of A3 reports can be used depending on the task at hand. This is often used as:
- Template for developing an improvement strategy (A3-S): If inefficiencies are recorded, they must be eliminated as quickly and effectively as possible. Targeted strategies to improve the process are necessary, for which the informative A3 report is suitable. (The "S" in the name comes from the word "strategy".)
- Template for the determination of a problem solution (A3-P): If a problem arises in the company, it is essential to uncover it and to fathom possible causes for its development. A useful tool is the A3 report, which allows a clear representation of a problem and enables the determination of targeted solutions. (The "P" in the abbreviation stands for the use of the report for "problem solving".)
- Template for working on topics in a team (A3-T): A3 reports can also be used in the form of meeting minutes. The clear presentation of a topic allows the different opinions of the participants to be shown. The integration of each individual results in an intensive preoccupation with the debated topic, which in turn leads to its precise understanding. This means that even complex topics can be discussed and processed in a simplified and clear manner. (The "T" in the name stands for "Team Agenda".)
- Satya S. Chakravorty: Process Improvement: Using Toyota's A3 Reports. In: Quality Management Journal. Vol. 16, Issue 4, 2009, S. 7–26.
- K Durward Sobek, Arthur T. Smalley: Understanding A3 Thinking : A Critical Component of Toyota's PDCA Management System. CRC Press, Boca Raton 2008, ISBN 978-1-56327-360-5.
- Paul Bayer: A3 system: tool for process improvement. (www.wandelweb.de; PDF; 259 kB) (accessed on January 20, 2017)