Mar
30

How Practicing Lean A3 Makes Ulbrich a Better Business Inside & Out

A common phrase heard around Toyota is “Before we build cars, we build people.” Leaders at Toyota prioritize employees before products and services; skills and mentalities are taught to develop employees into effective leaders in the workplace. Most companies FAIL when attempting a lean journey because they make the mistake of focusing on the improvements and not on the people making them!

Manufacturers who see the most benefit from lean, do so by trusting their teams and always falling back to what the lean process tells us. Ulbrich’s commitment to a Lean manufacturing strategy centers around building and empowering our people. Through 2019, Ulbrich completed hundreds of A3 improvement projects in all of our divisions and corporate offices; these projects, allow employees to embrace a lean culture of Respect for People and Continuous Improvement.

What is A3 in Manufacturing?

A3 is a problem-solving method that allows employees to form self-managed teams to attack waste in their own work processes. The origin of the term “A3” refers to the size of paper the projects were originally completed on.

Ideas for Lean A3 Manufacturing projects within your manufacturing business come from the employees themselves. The best A3 programs start by asking everyone in the company one question. "if you owned the business, what change would you make to your job right now?". Project ideas are taken from obstacles that keep employees from doing their jobs productively and efficiently. When an employee identifies a project, they take ownership of the project and recruit a small team of work colleagues (typically 3-5 total members). Furthermore, a coach is also assigned to help facilitate the A3 project.

The A3 team follows a structured path of events to:

  • Identify a problem in their work process.
  • Establish a current condition in terms of lead time, cost, or other unit of measurement.
  • Determine a root-cause as to why the problem exists.
  • Develop a target condition for improvement.
  • Implement that condition.
  • Control the improvement through follow-up.

These events reflect the scientific method of problem solving called DMAIC which stands for:

  • Define
  • Measure
  • Analyze
  • Improve
  • Control

Once a project is completed, the A3’s owner publicly shares their project at a company-wide event called the A3 Closing. During the closing, the owner teaches their co-workers and managers what they’ve learned.

A3: Putting People First in Your Manufacturing Business

A3 projects focus on developing employees into workplace leaders. Although projects typically result in an improvement, the skills that come from leading the project are ultimately what contributes to succeeding in a Lean journey. Skills such as recruiting and leading a team of people, problem-solving, or gaining group agreement are paramount in developing a culture of problem-solving, Respect for People, and Continuous Improvement.

Many companies end up failing in their own Lean journeys because the people are set aside. Companies that fail in their journeys only focus on the financial savings and physical improvements of projects; the skills and effort put into the projects is ignored or forgotten. This leads to employees becoming discouraged, improvement ideas being withheld, and enthusiasm for Lean disappearing from the workplace. Without having Respect for People, a culture of Lean cannot be developed.

Ulbrich commits to Lean manufacturing by committing to people. Through developing employees into effective leaders, your manufacturing business can maintain a work culture of innovation, growth, and success. At Ulbrich, Lean is about building leaders; the improvements are simply an added bonus. Want to learn more about how Ulbrich uses lean to build our people and grow our business? An Ulbrich manufacturing expert would be glad to talk, contact us today!

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