- Lean Philosophy
Eight Steps To Practical Problem Solving
The Toyota Way To Problem Solving
The art of problem solving is constantly trying to evolve and be re-branded by folks in various industries. While the new way might very well be an effective method in certain applications. A tried and true way of identifying and solving problems is the eight steps to practical problem solving developed by Toyota, years ago. The system is structured, but simple and practical enough to handle problems of the smallest nature, to the most complex issues.
Using a fundamental and strategic way to solve problems creates consistency within an organization. When you base your results off facts, experience and common sense, the results form in a rational and sustainable way.
The Eight Step Problem Solving Process
- Clarify the Problem
- Breakdown the Problem
- Set the Target
- Analyze the Root Cause
- Develop Countermeasures
- Implement Countermeasures
- Monitor Results and Process
- Standardize and Share Success
The eight steps to practical problem solving also include the Plan, Do, Check and Act (PDCA) cycle. Steps one through five are the planning process. The doing is found in step six. Step seven is the checking . Step eight involves acting out the results of the new standard.
This practical problem solving can be powerful tool to issues facing your organization. It allows organizations to have a common understanding of what defines a problem and what steps are going to be taken in order to overcome the problem efficiently.
The Eight Steps Broken Down:
Step 1: clarify the problem.
A problem can be defined in one of three ways. The first being, anything that is a deviation from the standard. The second could be the gap between the actual condition and the desired condition. With the third being an unfilled customer need.
In order to best clarify the problem, you have to see the problem with your own eyes. This gives you the details and hands-on experience that will allow you to move forward in the process.
Step 2: Breakdown the Problem
Once you’ve seen the problem first hand, you can begin to breakdown the problem into more detailed and specific problems. Remember, as you breakdown your problem you still need to see the smaller, individual problems with your own eyes. This is also a good time to study and analyze the different inputs and outputs of the process so that you can effectively prioritize your efforts. It is much more effective to manage and solve a bunch of micro-problems one at a time, rather than try and tackle a big problem with no direction.
Step 3: Set the Target
Step three is all about commitment and focus. Your attention should now turn towards focusing on what is needed to complete the project and how long it will take to finish. You should set targets that are challenging, but within limits and don’t put a strain on the organization that would hinder the improvement process.
Step 4: Analyze the Root Cause
This is a vital step when problem solving, because it will help you identify the actual factors that caused the issue in the first place. More often than not, there are multiple root causes to analyze. Make sure you are considering all potential root causes and addressing them properly. A proper root cause analysis, again involves you actually going to the cause itself instead of simply relying on reports.
Step 5: Develop Countermeasures
Once you’ve established your root causes, you can use that information to develop the countermeasures needed to remove the root causes. Your team should develop as many countermeasures needed to directly address any and all root causes. Once you’ve developed your countermeasures, you can begin to narrow them down to the most practical and effective based off your target.
Step 6: Implement Countermeasures
Now that you have developed your countermeasures and narrowed them down, it is time to see them through in a timely manner. Communication is extremely important in step six. You’ll want to seek ideas from the team and continue to work back through the PDCA cycle to ensure nothing is being missed along the way. Consider implementing one countermeasure at a time to monitor the effectiveness of each.
You will certainly make mistakes in throughout your problem solving processes, but your persistence is key, especially in step six.
Step 7: Monitor Results and Process
As mistakes happen and countermeasures fail, you need a system in place to review and modify them to get the intended result. You can also determine if the intended outcome was the result of the action of the countermeasure, or was it just a fluke? There is always room for improvement in the problem solving process, but you need to be able to recognize it when it comes to your attention.
Step 8: Standardize and Share Success
Now that you’ve encountered success along your problem solving path, it is time to set the new processes as the new standard within the organization and share them throughout the organization. It is also a good time to reflect on what you’ve learned and address any possible unresolved issues or troubles you have along the way. Ignoring unresolved issues will only lead to more problems down the road.
Finally, because you are a true Lean organization who believes continuous improvement never stops, it is time to tackle the next problem. Start the problem solving process over again and continue to work towards perfection.
- 8D for Problem Solving – creativesafetysupply.com
- Training to Use 8D Problem-Solving Tactics – blog.creativesafetysupply.com
- The Great Root Cause Problem Solving Debate – realsafety.org
- Design Thinking: Empathy and Iteration for Innovation and Problem-Solving – creativesafetypublishing.com
- 10 Commandments to Continuous Improvement – lean-news.com
- Lean Manufacturing Implementation – The First 5 Steps – iecieeechallenge.org
- No Problem is a Problem – jakegoeslean.com
- The Transitional Steps Involved In The 5s Principles During Implementation – 5snews.com
- The Tools of Kaizen – blog.5stoday.com
- 3P and Lean
- The Vacation Paradox
- Why Single Minute Exchange of Die (SMED)?
- Total Quality Management And Kaizen Principles In Lean Management
- An Engaged Employee is a Productive Employee
- Jim Womack’s Top Misconceptions of the Lean Movement
- Muda, Mura, and Muri: The Three Wastes
The Lean Post / Articles / Art of Lean on Problem-Solving, Part 8: Toyota Coaching Practices
Art of Lean on Problem-Solving, Part 8: Toyota Coaching Practices
By Art Smalley
July 23, 2021
Art describes some of the fundamental principles of Toyota coaching practices.
Art shares some specifics about Toyota coaching practices. Find a lightly edited script below.
Part eight of eight. Watch the others:
Part one, Coaching Problem-Solving
Part two, Lessons from NBA Coaches
Part three, Lessons from Martial Arts
Part four, Military Science and Leadership
Part five, Tuckman’s Model of Team Formation
Part six, Team-Building Tools and Practices
Part seven, Dreyfus Model and the Stages of Learning
Hi, everyone. This is Art Smalley, president of Art of Lean Incorporated. Today, in conjunction with the Lean Enterprise Institute, I have another video for you on the topic of coaching and problem-solving. We’re getting near the end of our series, but I want to talk about a couple more things related to coaching and problem-solving and shortening the lead time to learn.
I talked last time about an external framework called the Dreyfus Mode l, and I’ve shared some internal Toyota things. I had a question sent to me, “Art, can you show more about Toyota’s actual coaching practices, not the theory?” I said, “I’ll do my best.” So in this, we’re going to talk about that topic, so stick around. I think you’ll enjoy it.
Coaching Practices at Toyota
In response to the question what are actual coaching practices like in Toyota? , to be honest, it’s quite varied. I experienced it in Japan. Those of you who have worked for Toyota around the world might have similar or different experiences, but you learn on the job in Toyota. You learn by standard training, you learn from your peers, you often learn from people assigned to you. They’re, in Japanese, called a Sempai or someone superior to you. Like if I’m a junior engineer, there’s a senior engineer who often oversees my work . You learn from managers and specialists in various realms. Eventually, you learn from advanced courses if you stay with the company long enough and advance through positions. You learn from various special problems and assignments you’re given over time. So it’s not a one-size-fits-all.
Now, what I do have, interestingly, is my basic problem-solving handbook that I was given 30 years ago, over 30 years ago, when I went to work for Toyota in Japan. It has a grand total of 44 pages, only five steps in this one, believe it or not, seven QC tools, and some examples and a glossary. That’s all I got when I started working. It’s a form of basic problem-solving training, and I didn’t get any coaching specifically on this. You’re expected to then go and apply and work on a problem, and then you’d get some coaching after that.
Later on, I did get a bigger one, fewer pages, but this was intermediate problem-solving in Toyota. This one has 13 pages. I guess the higher you go, the less they’re going to give you in terms of knowledge. This one did have the actual eight steps though it is outdated. The eight steps that you’re doing today are not exactly the same, but this would be considered the routes of the eight-step method that Toyota has in its Toyota business practices, practical problem-solving routines of today.
To be honest with you, there are also advanced topics. I got to experience some of this in Toyota — very advanced techniques in problem-solving. You don’t hear about these, sadly, on the outside, but there are experts in Toyota, using very advanced techniques. There’s specialist training and coaching going on for a very small segment of the population, very statistical in nature, very quantitative. But, again, it is for the select few in quality control, product development, reliability engineering, and things like that.
The man who knows the most about it, a gentleman named Kakuro Amasaka, is retired. But he did publish a book that has some material pertaining to that if you’re interested. It’s not a great book, not well translated, sadly. But it gives a little bit of a picture of that. An example is a steering pump hose and an improvement project problem they were solving. He points out the different ways you can tackle this problem through reliability engineering and Weibull analysis and various tools: regression analysis, principal component analysis, multivariate analysis, and things like that. And, of course, design of experiments.
It Depends on Your Level and Position!
You’ve got to realize that actual coaching practices and problem execution really depend upon your level or position in Toyota and what you’re doing. It’s not one-size-fits-all. But be that as it may, let’s circle back to, I think, what the questioner was looking for.
What are basic problem-solving and coaching practices really like in Toyota? Here’s a picture of a lady doing a problem-solving report-out to a team leader and a manager, which is what happens to pretty much everybody. You complete some basic training. You get assigned a problem, maybe team-based, individual-based; it depends. You work on that problem, and there are periodic report-outs, and you receive coaching during those report-outs. You might do two steps of problem-solving, have a report-out, get to step four, have a report-out, step six, have a report-out, step eight, have a final report-out, things like that. You get coaching and advice through those steps and, of course, struggle on your own.
Interestingly, there is an actual Toyota form used for coaching. I have an old version of it that I translated from Japanese, and to my knowledge, Toyota has not released this to the outside world, so I can’t freely distribute it. But I think it is floating around, to be honest with you. I’ve seen multiple versions of it, even in English. It specifically shows what the Toyota coach is expected to do in terms of feedback and working on problem-solving with a given team or individual. It has steps. It has content that you’re supposed to look for. It has an area for feedback to be filled in. You as the coach, must provide a [numerical] rating. It does have questions you can ask, very targeted questions to ask for feedback.
In this way, it is very much like situational leadership. Toyota is not a one-size-fits-all model, and the coaching forms, especially at the intermediate and advanced level, are quite flexible if you look at them and think about it. There are directive, coaching, supporting, and what I would call delegative, or good S4-style, coaching components, which are in the spirit of situational leadership.
Specifying the Steps
Now, to get more practical, the directive aspect of it is something like this. In the Toyota coaching form for problem-solving, you have to specify what the steps are and the expected outcome. You just don’t let people struggle. Of course, they get their basic training, but as a coach, you’re also explaining the steps, the expected outcome, what it looks like, and providing that quality instruction that people need.
Secondly, a level up from there, you’re also evaluating the content. So, you’re coaching and evaluating the content. You’re just not simply asking questions. You’re seeing what the student did versus the standard, and you’re giving them a rating of one, two, and three. One is “does not meet the expectation.” Two is “meets expectation.” Three is “exceeds expectation.” But as a coach, you have to say why. So in problem-solving steps one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, all eight steps, you have to rank it one, two, or three. You have to say why it does not meet expectation, why it meets expectation and yet still could be better, or three, obviously, if it exceeds expectation, explain how it exceeded expectation what was really good about it. But that’s good coaching.
That’s one of the difficult things about being a coach. You don’t give them the answer, but you also give them enough instruction so that they know the next steps to go forward.
Thirdly, there’s a supportive aspect of it. People who are kind of getting the steps and doing the content mostly right, but still need a few areas would get what we’d call S3 or supportive leadership, supportive coaching. You’re going to ask them targeted questions. The mistake I see in coaching is we’re just asking open-ended questions and expect the learner to figure it out. The Toyota coaching feedback questions are all targeted and quite directed. So for each of the eight steps, there’s a half dozen, five or six, questions. There’s anywhere from 40 to 50 targeted questions in there, in the coaching guide you ask the learner to help them think about the problem they’re faced with and what they might get a better idea or understanding from that targeted question.
Not anybody’s allowed to be a coach in Toyota. I think that’s one of the problems or misconceptions we have, that just because you can do problem-solving, you’re a good coach at it. That’s not always true in Toyota or the real world. It’s somewhat restricted to the better problem-solvers and the coaches with that capability, especially when you get to the statistical quality control, SQC, realm. It’s very advanced in Toyota, and a very, very small percentage of the population is as qualified to do that.
Toyota Coaching Overview
In a video, without going into an actual step-by-step problem, that’s the best I can do, trying to explain actual coaching practices in Toyota, what they look like, by level and by type, and by the situation. There are very advanced courses. I’m sad we don’t get to talk about them, but they’re very restricted in terms of access, and who gets to take those courses — and who gets to coach those is even more restrictive. I tapped out in the middle — at about the intermediate SQC level and multivariate regression analysis.
There are, of course, beginner courses that everybody sees and knows. That’s where you start. There are beginning guides, as I talked about, but it’s not one-size-fits-all. The best coaches know how to be directive, coaching, and supportive, and they know how to ask targeted questions that help people advance down the path of problem-solving. To me, that’s good coaching and the direction I hope we can go in the future with lean and problem-solving and other topics of a similar nature. So I hope that helps. See you in the next video.
Intro to Problem-Solving
Learn a proven, systematic approach to resolving business and work process problems.
About Art Smalley
Art is the author of the LEI workbook Creating Level Pull: a lean production-system improvement guide for production control, operations, and engineering professionals, which received a 2005 Shingo Research Award. He was inducted into the Shingo Prize Academy in 2006. Art learned about lean manufacturing while living, studying, and working in Japan…
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How Toyota Turns Workers Into Problem Solvers
Sarah Jane Johnston: Why study Toyota? With all the books and articles on Toyota, lean manufacturing, just-in-time, kanban systems, quality systems, etc. that came out in the 1980s and 90s, hasn't the topic been exhausted?
Steven Spear: Well, this has been a much-researched area. When Kent Bowen and I first did a literature search, we found nearly 3,000 articles and books had been published on some of the topics you just mentioned.
However, there was an apparent discrepancy. There had been this wide, long-standing recognition of Toyota as the premier automobile manufacturer in terms of the unmatched combination of high quality, low cost, short lead-time and flexible production. And Toyota's operating system—the Toyota Production System—had been widely credited for Toyota's sustained leadership in manufacturing performance. Furthermore, Toyota had been remarkably open in letting outsiders study its operations. The American Big Three and many other auto companies had done major benchmarking studies, and they and other companies had tried to implement their own forms of the Toyota Production System. There is the Ford Production System, the Chrysler Operating System, and General Motors went so far as to establish a joint venture with Toyota called NUMMI, approximately fifteen years ago.
However, despite Toyota's openness and the genuinely honest efforts by other companies over many years to emulate Toyota, no one had yet matched Toyota in terms of having simultaneously high-quality, low-cost, short lead-time, flexible production over time and broadly based across the system.
It was from observations such as these that Kent and I started to form the impression that despite all the attention that had already been paid to Toyota, something critical was being missed. Therefore, we approached people at Toyota to ask what they did that others might have missed.
Q: What did they say?
A: To paraphrase one of our contacts, he said, "It's not that we don't want to tell you what TPS is, it's that we can't. We don't have adequate words for it. But, we can show you what TPS is."
Over about a four-year period, they showed us how work was actually done in practice in dozens of plants. Kent and I went to Toyota plants and those of suppliers here in the U.S. and in Japan and directly watched literally hundreds of people in a wide variety of roles, functional specialties, and hierarchical levels. I personally was in the field for at least 180 working days during that time and even spent one week at a non-Toyota plant doing assembly work and spent another five months as part of a Toyota team that was trying to teach TPS at a first-tier supplier in Kentucky.
Q: What did you discover?
A: We concluded that Toyota has come up with a powerful, broadly applicable answer to a fundamental managerial problem. The products we consume and the services we use are typically not the result of a single person's effort. Rather, they come to us through the collective effort of many people each doing a small part of the larger whole. To a certain extent, this is because of the advantages of specialization that Adam Smith identified in pin manufacturing as long ago as 1776 in The Wealth of Nations . However, it goes beyond the economies of scale that accrue to the specialist, such as skill and equipment focus, setup minimization, etc.
The products and services characteristic of our modern economy are far too complex for any one person to understand how they work. It is cognitively overwhelming. Therefore, organizations must have some mechanism for decomposing the whole system into sub-system and component parts, each "cognitively" small or simple enough for individual people to do meaningful work. However, decomposing the complex whole into simpler parts is only part of the challenge. The decomposition must occur in concert with complimentary mechanisms that reintegrate the parts into a meaningful, harmonious whole.
This common yet nevertheless challenging problem is obviously evident when we talk about the design of complex technical devices. Automobiles have tens of thousands of mechanical and electronic parts. Software has millions and millions of lines of code. Each system can require scores if not hundreds of person-work-years to be designed. No one person can be responsible for the design of a whole system. No one is either smart enough or long-lived enough to do the design work single handedly.
Furthermore, we observe that technical systems are tested repeatedly in prototype forms before being released. Why? Because designers know that no matter how good their initial efforts, they will miss the mark on the first try. There will be something about the design of the overall system structure or architecture, the interfaces that connect components, or the individual components themselves that need redesign. In other words, to some extent the first try will be wrong, and the organization designing a complex system needs to design, test, and improve the system in a way that allows iterative congruence to an acceptable outcome.
The same set of conditions that affect groups of people engaged in collaborative product design affect groups of people engaged in the collaborative production and delivery of goods and services. As with complex technical systems, there would be cognitive overload for one person to design, test-in-use, and improve the work systems of factories, hotels, hospitals, or agencies as reflected in (a) the structure of who gets what good, service, or information from whom, (b) the coordinative connections among people so that they can express reliably what they need to do their work and learn what others need from them, and (c) the individual work activities that create intermediate products, services, and information. In essence then, the people who work in an organization that produces something are simultaneously engaged in collaborative production and delivery and are also engaged in a collaborative process of self-reflective design, "prototype testing," and improvement of their own work systems amidst changes in market needs, products, technical processes, and so forth.
It is our conclusion that Toyota has developed a set of principles, Rules-in-Use we've called them, that allow organizations to engage in this (self-reflective) design, testing, and improvement so that (nearly) everyone can contribute at or near his or her potential, and when the parts come together the whole is much, much greater than the sum of the parts.
Q: What are these rules?
A: We've seen that consistently—across functional roles, products, processes (assembly, equipment maintenance and repair, materials logistics, training, system redesign, administration, etc.), and hierarchical levels (from shop floor to plant manager and above) that in TPS managed organizations the design of nearly all work activities, connections among people, and pathways of connected activities over which products, services, and information take form are specified-in-their-design, tested-with-their-every-use, and improved close in time, place, and person to the occurrence of every problem .
Q: That sounds pretty rigorous.
A: It is, but consider what the Toyota people are attempting to accomplish. They are saying before you (or you all) do work, make clear what you expect to happen (by specifying the design), each time you do work, see that what you expected has actually occurred (by testing with each use), and when there is a difference between what had actually happened and what was predicted, solve problems while the information is still fresh.
Q: That reminds me of what my high school lab science teacher required.
A: Exactly! This is a system designed for broad based, frequent, rapid, low-cost learning. The "Rules" imply a belief that we may not get the right solution (to work system design) on the first try, but that if we design everything we do as a bona fide experiment, we can more rapidly converge, iteratively, and at lower cost, on the right answer, and, in the process, learn a heck of lot more about the system we are operating.
Q: You say in your article that the Toyota system involves a rigorous and methodical problem-solving approach that is made part of everyone's work and is done under the guidance of a teacher. How difficult would it be for companies to develop their own program based on the Toyota model?
A: Your question cuts right to a critical issue. We discussed earlier the basic problem that for complex systems, responsibility for design, testing, and improvement must be distributed broadly. We've observed that Toyota, its best suppliers, and other companies that have learned well from Toyota can confidently distribute a tremendous amount of responsibility to the people who actually do the work, from the most senior, expeirenced member of the organization to the most junior. This is accomplished because of the tremendous emphasis on teaching everyone how to be a skillful problem solver.
Q: How do they do this?
A: They do this by teaching people to solve problems by solving problems. For instance, in our paper we describe a team at a Toyota supplier, Aisin. The team members, when they were first hired, were inexperienced with at best an average high school education. In the first phase of their employment, the hurdle was merely learning how to do the routine work for which they were responsible. Soon thereafter though, they learned how to immediately identify problems that occurred as they did their work. Then they learned how to do sophisticated root-cause analysis to find the underlying conditions that created the symptoms that they had experienced. Then they regularly practiced developing counter-measures—changes in work, tool, product, or process design—that would remove the underlying root causes.
Q: Sounds impressive.
A: Yes, but frustrating. They complained that when they started, they were "blissful in their ignorance." But after this sustained development, they could now see problems, root down to their probable cause, design solutions, but the team members couldn't actually implement these solutions. Therefore, as a final round, the team members received training in various technical crafts—one became a licensed electrician, another a machinist, another learned some carpentry skills.
Q: Was this unique?
A: Absolutely not. We saw the similar approach repeated elsewhere. At Taiheiyo, another supplier, team members made sophisticated improvements in robotic welding equipment that reduced cost, increased quality, and won recognition with an award from the Ministry of Environment. At NHK (Nippon Spring) another team conducted a series of experiments that increased quality, productivity, and efficiency in a seat production line.
Q: What is the role of the manager in this process?
A: Your question about the role of the manager gets right to the heart of the difficulty of managing this way. For many people, it requires a profound shift in mind-set in terms of how the manager envisions his or her role. For the team at Aisin to become so skilled as problem solvers, they had to be led through their training by a capable team leader and group leader. The team leader and group leader were capable of teaching these skills in a directed, learn-by-doing fashion, because they too were consistently trained in a similar fashion by their immediate senior. We found that in the best TPS-managed plants, there was a pathway of learning and teaching that cascaded from the most senior levels to the most junior. In effect, the needs of people directly touching the work determined the assistance, problem solving, and training activities of those more senior. This is a sharp contrast, in fact a near inversion, in terms of who works for whom when compared with the more traditional, centralized command and control system characterized by a downward diffusion of work orders and an upward reporting of work status.
Q: And if you are hiring a manager to help run this system, what are the attributes of the ideal candidate?
A: We observed that the best managers in these TPS managed organizations, and the managers in organizations that seem to adopt the Rules-in-Use approach most rapidly are humble but also self-confident enough to be great learners and terrific teachers. Furthermore, they are willing to subscribe to a consistent set of values.
Q: How do you mean?
A: Again, it is what is implied in the guideline of specifying every design, testing with every use, and improving close in time, place, and person to the occurrence of every problem. If we do this consistently, we are saying through our action that when people come to work, they are entitled to expect that they will succeed in doing something of value for another person. If they don't succeed, they are entitled to know immediately that they have not. And when they have not succeeded, they have the right to expect that they will be involved in creating a solution that makes success more likely on the next try. People who cannot subscribe to these ideas—neither in their words nor in their actions—are not likely to manage effectively in this system.
Q: That sounds somewhat high-minded and esoteric.
A: I agree with you that it strikes the ear as sounding high principled but perhaps not practical. However, I'm fundamentally an empiricist, so I have to go back to what we have observed. In organizations in which managers really live by these Rules, either in the Toyota system or at sites that have successfully transformed themselves, there is a palpable, positive difference in the attitude of people that is coupled with exceptional performance along critical business measures such as quality, cost, safety, and cycle time.
Q: Have any other research projects evolved from your findings?
A: We titled the results of our initial research "Decoding the DNA of the Toyota Production System." Kent and I are reasonably confident that the Rules-in-Use about which we have written are a successful decoding. Now, we are trying to "replicate the DNA" at a variety of sites. We want to know where and when these Rules create great value, and where they do, how they can be implemented most effectively.
Since we are empiricists, we are conducting experiments through our field research. We are part of a fairly ambitious effort at Alcoa to develop and deploy the Alcoa Business System, ABS. This is a fusion of Alcoa's long standing value system, which has helped make Alcoa the safest employer in the country, with the Rules in Use. That effort has been going on for a number of years, first with the enthusiastic support of Alcoa's former CEO, Paul O'Neill, now Secretary of the Treasury (not your typical retirement, eh?) and now with the backing of Alain Belda, the company's current head. There have been some really inspirational early results in places as disparate as Hernando, Mississippi and Poces de Caldas, Brazil and with processes as disparate as smelting, extrusion, die design, and finance.
We also started creating pilot sites in the health care industry. We started our work with a "learning unit" at Deaconess-Glover Hospital in Needham, not far from campus. We've got a series of case studies that captures some of the learnings from that effort. More recently, we've established pilot sites at Presbyterian and South Side Hospitals, both part of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. This work is part of a larger, comprehensive effort being made under the auspices of the Pittsburgh Regional Healthcare Initiative, with broad community support, with cooperation from the Centers for Disease Control, and with backing from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Also, we've been testing these ideas with our students: Kent in the first year Technology and Operations Management class for which he is course head, me in a second year elective called Running and Growing the Small Company, and both of us in an Executive Education course in which we participate called Building Competitive Advantage Through Operations.
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Value stream mapping is a tool for visualising the flow of material and information. This tools helps you see waste and there is often more than you would think. Come to Deeside and study Toyota or we can come to you.
5 Day Course
The 5 day workshop explores in detail the concepts of the Toyota Production System and Toyota Way behaviours. A real appetite for Lean is essential, this course is no holiday.
Built In Quality
Toyota has achieved a reputation for the production of very high quality vehicles in all countries around the world. See how the second pillar of the TPS house Jidoka allows us to build in quality.
Effective Line Management
Many have read the books but how is Lean really applied at a shop floor level? We take small groups to areas which are not normally accessible to visitors and show how Toyota supervisors make things happen.
A3 8 Step Practical Problem Solving – Skill Level 1: Knowledge
How the a3 came to be toyota’s go-to management process..
by Isao Yoshino August 2, 2016
The discussion below between John Shook and Isao Yoshino first appeared on The Lean Enterprise Institute website www.lean.org .
As context, John Shook defines the A3 process as “… the A3 is a visual manifestation of a problem-solving thought process involving continual dialogue between the owner of an issue and others in an organisation. It is a foundational management process that enables and encourages learning through the scientific method.” pp11 of Managing to Learn
Understanding A3 Thinking has evolved over time. In 2016, John said he would change the term “scientific method” to “scientific thinking” in that definition because the scientific method is but one of a number of ways of structuring to do science. In addition, John clarified that the A3 process is a process to help teams do science together. It’s much more than a structure for a problem solving process – it can become a way of enabling people to work together effectively.
The history of the A3 process provides context. Context to the “problem(s)” Toyota was attempting to solve by developing such a process. You may not have exactly the same problems as Toyota did when it started its journey, but we are sure any organisation will be more successful if they are deliberate in the development of management skills, capability building and thinking. It’s not enough just to hire great people, we need to build capability and behaviours over time.
We hope you find that this interview helps you think through why developing such processes are so important.
In the late 1970s, Toyota decided to invest in cultivating the managerial capabilities of its mid-level managers. Masao Nemoto, the same influential executive who led Toyota’s successful Deming Prize initiative in 1965, led a development program especially for non-production gemba managers called the “Kanri Nouryoku Program” – “Kan-Pro” for short. Nemoto chose to structure this critical management development initiative around the A3 process.
The A3 is well established now in the lean community. As a process, as a tool, as a way of thinking, managing and developing others. The question often comes up of where did it come from and how did it become a common practice. The basic answer is that it dispersed mainly from Toyota. But how did it become so prevalent in Toyota? And how did it evolve from its humble beginnings as a tool to tell a PDCA quality improvement story on an A3-sized sheet of paper, as it had been commonly used by many Japanese companies since the 1960s?
What had started as a simple tool to tell PDCA stories grew at Toyota into something more: the A3 process came to embody the company’s way of managing in an extraordinarily profound sense. How did this happen?
My first “kacho” (manager) at Toyota (in Japan starting in 1983), Mr. Isao Yoshino, was a member of Nemoto’s four-man team that created and delivered the “Kan-Pro” manager-development initiative that directly answers that question. The program has been unknown outside Toyota … until now.
Interview with Mr. Isao Yoshino
Q: what was the purpose of the kanri nouryoku program.
A: The main purpose was to nurture “Management Capabilities” of employees who were at manager (kacho) level and above. There were four rudimental capabilities for managers:
- Planning capability, judging capability
- Broad knowledge, experiences and perspectives
- Driving force to get job done, leadership, kaizen capability
- Presentation capability, persuasion capability, negotiation capability
Q: Why did Toyota decide it needed this program?
A: After introducing Total Quality Control (TQC) in 1961 and receiving the Deming Prize in 1965, TQC-based perspective had taken root widely across the company. In the late ‘70s, Mr. Nemoto (one of the main people behind launching TQC) noticed that management capabilities and TQC awareness was decreasing among managers, particularly within the non-manufacturing gemba or office divisions. Mr. Nemoto decided to take actions to reinvigorate the managers (especially administrative) and help heighten awareness of their role. And so, in 1978, he formed a task force that promoted a two-year program (the Kanri Nouryoku Program) for two thousand managers from all over the company. I was one of the four staff members on the task force in Toyota City.
Q: What sort of tools and activities did the Kanri Nouryoku employ?
A: All the managers went through “a presentation session” twice per year (June and December). The officers in charge of each department attended to have a Question and Answer session with the managers. Officers tried to focus on the problems each manager was facing as well as the effort and process needed to solve the problems. Officers focused more on “What is the major cause of the problem?”, rather than “Who made those mistakes?” This problem-focused attitude (as opposed to the who-made-the-mistake attitude) of the officers encouraged managers to share their problems rather than hide them.
The key to giving the presentations was that they had to be done using an A3. The managers learned how to select what information/data was needed and what was not needed, since an A3 has only limited space. This helped them acquire the seiri and seiton functions of the 5S concept as applied to knowledge work. A3 was also a great tool for officers. They could easily see, at a glance, all the key points that the presenter wanted to convey. As it is just one single document, you can quickly see from the left top corner to the right bottom of an A3 and grasp the key things the writer wants to communicate. This is something that you cannot get from a written document or PowerPoint presentation.
Q: What was your personal experience with the program?
A: First, I was fortunate to get acquainted with many admirable managers, who inspired me in many ways. I also learned how to express myself more effectively by studying A3 documents from two thousand managers. Strikingly, I discovered that managers whose A3s were excellent were also excellent managers at work.
Nemoto-san highly praised managers who took a risk to report their mistakes (not success stories) on A3s with a hope of finding a solution. Nemoto valued their sincere and proactive attitudes. “Nemoto Lectures” were held for managers three or four times a year. Mr. Nemoto went through every single impression memo from the audience as feedback for his next speech.
Mr. Nemoto also appreciated the efforts by managers who tried to nurture excellent subordinates. This created a new company-wide notion that “developing your subordinates is a virtue.” It was amazing to see managers in their 40s and 50s willing to give 100 percent of their energy to work on hoshin kanri and A3 reporting, because they were convinced the program was practical and useful and worth using to bring themselves up to a higher level. Seeing all this happen at work truly helped me grow professionally.
Q: What was the effect of the program on Toyota?
A: Well for one, every mid-level manager who was involved in this program over the two years came to clearly understand their roles and responsibilities and also learned the importance of the hoshin kanri system. People at Toyota don’t hesitate to report bad news, which has been Toyota’s heritage since day one. The Kanri Nouryoku program has further reinforced this tradition because of its praise toward managers and others who were honest about their mistakes. And after the program was implemented to the back-office managers, the level of their awareness of their role rose up to the same level of that of manufacturing-related managers, which significantly strengthened the management foundation.
Everybody became familiar with using the A3 process when documented communication was needed – A3 thinking eventually became an essential part of Toyota’s culture. People learned how to distinguish what is important from what is not.
Lecturer , Nagoya Gakuin University
Isao Yoshino is a Lecturer at Nagoya Gakuin University of Japan. Prior to joining academia, he spent 40 years at Toyota working in a number of managerial roles in a variety of departments. Most notably, he was one of the main driving forces behind Toyota’s little-known Kanri Nouryoku program, a development activity for knowledge-work managers that would instill the A3 as the go-to problem-solving process at Toyota.
Now move onto the next Topic
Embracing The Toyota Way: A Practical Problem-Solving Framework for Improved Efficiency
The Toyota Production System (TPS) has long been regarded as a paragon of efficiency and effectiveness in the manufacturing industry. One of the primary principles of TPS is “The Toyota Way,” a management philosophy emphasizing continuous improvement and respect for people. In this blog post, we will share a practical problem-solving framework inspired by The Toyota Way that can be applied to various industries and organizations. This comprehensive blog post will delve into the critical elements of this framework and provide insights on how you can leverage it to improve problem-solving and boost efficiency within your organization.
Understanding the Problem-Solving Framework
This framework consists of five distinct stages, which together form a systematic approach to problem-solving:
- A. Define the Problem
- B. Break Down the Problem
- C. Set Targets
- D. Analyze the Root Causes
- E. Implement Countermeasures
Each stage is vital in identifying and resolving issues and ensuring practical and sustainable solutions. Let’s look at each stage and how they contribute to the framework.
A. define the problem:.
Before diving into problem-solving, clearly defining the issue at hand is essential. This involves understanding the gap between the current situation and the desired state and identifying the symptoms and effects of the problem. A well-defined problem sets the stage for more effective problem-solving and helps ensure that the correct issues are being addressed.
B. Break Down the Problem:
Once the problem has been defined, the next step is to break it down into smaller, more manageable components. This process helps clarify the issue’s scope, making it easier to understand and address. By breaking down the problem, you can more easily identify the underlying causes and focus on finding targeted solutions.
C. Set Targets:
After breaking down the problem, it’s crucial to establish measurable targets that define the desired outcome. These targets should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound ( SMART ). Setting clear and achievable goals ensures that your problem-solving efforts are directed toward meaningful improvements and allows you to track progress over time.
D. Analyze the Root Causes:
With targets in place, it’s time to dive deeper and identify the root causes of the problem. This stage thoroughly analyzes the underlying issues, using tools such as the “5 Whys” technique or the Fishbone Diagram. By identifying the root causes, you can develop targeted countermeasures that address the core issues rather than merely treating the symptoms.
E. Implement Countermeasures:
The final stage of the framework involves developing and implementing countermeasures to address the root causes of the problem. This may include changes to processes, systems, or behaviours. Once countermeasures are in place, monitoring their effectiveness and making adjustments is essential, ensuring that the problem is fully resolved and improvements are sustainable.
Benefits of the Toyota Way-Inspired Problem-Solving Framework
Adopting a structured problem-solving framework like the one inspired by The Toyota Way offers several benefits:
- Enhanced problem-solving capabilities: The systematic approach ensures that problems are thoroughly analyzed and addressed, leading to more effective and lasting solutions.
- Improved efficiency: By identifying and resolving the root causes of issues, organizations can optimize their processes and systems, reducing waste and improving productivity.
- Increased employee engagement: The framework emphasizes teamwork and collaboration, fostering a culture of continuous improvement and empowering employees to contribute to the organization’s success.
Implementing the Framework in Your Organization
To successfully implement this problem-solving framework within your organization, consider the following steps:
- Develop a strong understanding of the framework: Ensure that key stakeholders and team members are familiar with the five stages of the problem-solving framework and understand how they contribute to the overall process. This may involve conducting training sessions or workshops to educate employees on the principles and techniques of The Toyota Way-inspired framework.
- Establish a culture of continuous improvement: Encourage a mindset of ongoing growth and development within your organization. Promote open communication, collaboration, and a willingness to learn from mistakes. Foster an environment where employees feel empowered to share ideas and contribute to problem-solving efforts.
- Adapt the framework to your organization’s unique needs: While its fundamental principles remain the same, it’s essential to tailor the approach to your organization’s specific context and requirements. This may involve adjusting the tools and techniques used in the analysis stage or adapting the implementation process to fit your organization’s structure and culture.
- Monitor progress and measure results: Regularly assess the effectiveness of the problem-solving framework by tracking progress towards established targets and measuring the impact of implemented countermeasures. Use this information to identify further improvement areas and refine the framework.
- Celebrate successes and share learnings: Recognize and celebrate your team’s achievements as they successfully navigate the problem-solving framework and implement effective solutions. Share the lessons learned and best practices across the organization, fostering a culture of knowledge-sharing and continuous improvement.
The Toyota Way-inspired problem-solving framework offers a structured and systematic approach to identifying and resolving issues within your organization. By embracing this framework, you can enhance problem-solving capabilities, boost efficiency, and foster a culture of continuous improvement. By implementing the framework thoughtfully and deliberately, you can unlock your organization’s potential and achieve lasting success in today’s competitive business environment.
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Toyota Business Practice (TBP)
TBP is Toyota’s problem solving process, based on the original Plan Do Check Act ( PDCA ) model, but more detailed and prescriptive with 8 steps instead of 4.
Toyota had originally developed The Toyota Way 2001, and wanted a way to put those principles into action across the organization and with their suppliers and partners.
The 8 steps are as follows:
- Clarify the problem
- Breakdown the problem
- Set a target
- Analyze the root cause
- Develop countermeasures
- See countermeasures through
- Evaluate both results and process
- Standardize successful processes
A3 documentation is used to capture the status of a problem within these 8 steps, so there is a natural connection between A3 , PDCA , Kata and TBP.
- What is Lean Leadership and How Do You Get it? by Jeffrey Liker
- The Toyota Business Practice – Gemba Academy
- The Toyota Engagement Equation
- Extreme Toyota
- Managing to Learn: Using the A3 Management Process to Solve Problems, Gain Agreement, Mentor and Lead
- FOCUS-PDCA – creativesafetysupply.com
- Eight Steps To Practical Problem Solving – kaizen -news.com
- Why You’re Still A Lean Student – Using Lean Practice Routines to Avoid Common Growth Stunting – blog.creativesafetysupply.com
- The Toyota Production System House – blog.5stoday.com
- Why Ask Why? – lean -news.com
- Another Recall For Toyota – 5snews.com
- Continuous Improvement Applied to Safety at Toyota – iecieeechallenge.org
- The Concepts of Kaizen – creativesafetypublishing.com
- 5 Kaizen Tools to Start Using – hiplogic.com
Toyota-style Problem Solving, Step 7: Check Both Process and Results
The eight step description of the PDCA cycle of problem solving called Toyota Business Practice (TBP for short) or practical problem solving continues to top my list of important things everyone should know. I’m finding it surprisingly hard to get people excited about this. Perhaps it seems too simple, too obvious to take seriously. Or perhaps we are so good at solution-jumping that the first 5 steps seem redundant (they’re not!) and we just can’t be bothered to go through these eight steps:
- Clarify the problem
- Breakdown the problem
- Set a target to achieve
- Analyze the root cause
- Develop countermeasures
- See countermeasures through
- Check both results and process
- Standardize successful processes, go to step 1
If you must, as many will, jump from “we have a problem” (step 0) to “we have a countermeasure” (step 6) perhaps at least I can prevail upon you to proceed to step 7. What does it mean to check both process and results? It sounds obvious and we may think we already do this. I recently heard a metaphor that is quite apt to describe this concept. Let’s take a type of person who becomes very rich very quickly. For example the lottery ticket winner, a professional athlete, a rock group which has a hit record or two. It’s not uncommon to hear of these people ending up poor again. Why is this?
Although to differing degrees there was effort and ability involved in how these people became rich, a good part of it was luck. There is no process behind a lottery ticket winner’s wealth. There is seldom a strong business mind behind the commercial success of a stereotypical rock band. An athlete that is focused on being the best they can be at their game often has not studied business, home economics or made long-term financial plans. the process for building their wealth may have depended in a measure of luck. And what process that may have existed is rarely checked, standardized or repeatable: it is what we call heroic effort. When they have spent all of their money, forgotten to pay their taxes, developed expensive habits, and need to create wealth again, these types of people often cannot duplicate it. There is no process to go back to, only spent luck.
When we practice problem solving we need to be sure that we have left ourselves some breadcrumbs like the children in the fairy tale so that should our countermeasure not work out, we can find our way out of the forest and try again. In fact, even when our countermeasures do work, we need to follow our breadcrumbs to make sure that we can learn from success, share the success and make it repeatable. The process we check includes the problem description, breakdown, root cause analysis, countermeasure planning method, the actual method of implementation of the countermeasures, as well as various documented assumptions to that point. The process that we follow can be something as simple as “did we stick to our plan?” Many times we need to ask the question “Were the process metrics improving while our results metrics were improving?” because when the answer is “no” we need to question whether it was luck, or whether the root cause we thought we were addressing has gone away for an unknown reason, or external factors improved the end result even with the process unchanged.
At some level people are happy to contain the problem and move on. People think that root cause countermeasures are too hard, or too expensive. We ask “At what price?” when faced with the possibility of solving problems at the root cause level. We trick ourselves using numbers games that it is easier to inspect out defects than to go upstream (often overseas) to correct the problem at the source. We just want the problem to go away, even if it has just slinked under the proverbial rug. We don’t want to question the process too carefully. Why? Our processes have feelings, and we don’t want to hurt them. Sounds ridiculous, until you consider that most of the time we don’t have processes at all, just people who do the work. When we try to question processes we end up threatening people. We need to start by defining the standard process so that we can attack the process, not the person. People doing the best they can with insufficient resources is not a process, it is a shame.
The Toyota Business Practice is a standardized problem solving process. You can even use it to build processes where none exist, since that is often one of the causes of problems. Step seven of Toyota-style problem solving is all about making sure we are following the process we set out to follow, instead of solution-jumping. When we jump from step zero to step 8, we may think we have come to a rapid resolution to the problem but it is no resolution at all if the problem reoccurs and we have no evidence of the process we followed to achieve the result. If you find yourself in that position, I have a solution for you. It’s called the 8-step problem solving process. Not to be a solution-jumper…
Jon has dedicated his 25+ year career to the field of kaizen, continuous improvement, and lean management. Jon spent the first eighteen years of his life in Japan, then graduated from McGill University with a bachelor’s in linguistics.
I think this is a classic case where TPS/Lean and Six Sigma can work together. 6 Sigma’s main problem solving roadmap (DMAIC) goes through remarkably the same steps that Toyota uses.
an excellent metaphor. I shall distribute this to my collegaues during Quality meeting.
Step 7 of TBP allows for the “thinking in reverse” process to begin as well… ensuring that the steps are logically linked within this thinking process. it will ask us to look at Step 3 and back at Step 1 (Ultimate Goal) to ensure the process was linked…and as you said… if not, follow the breadcrumbs to find the answers. A good process is continual and repeatable giving you long-term sustainability !!! TBP is very efficient and effective if followed !!! Great post !!
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Harmonizing Organizational Excellence: A Fusion of Agile, Deming, and Toyota Principles
GA 503 | Balancing Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation with Brent Weichers
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“Practical Problem Solving” in Seven Steps
At Toyota, a five-why analysis is often used as part of a seven-step process they call “practical problem solving.” Before the five-why analysis can begin, “practical problem solving” requires you to clarify the problem or, in Toyota terminology, “grasp the situation.” Trainers who teach this methodology within Toyota have found the most difficult part to learn is grasping the situation thoroughly before proceeding with five-why analysis. Grasping the situation starts with observing the situation with an open mind and comparing the actual situation to the standard. To clarify the problem, you must start by going to where the problem is (genchi genbutsu). This may include prioritizing a number of different problems in a Pareto analysis. The Pareto diagram uses bar graphs to sort problems according to severity, frequency, nature, or source and displays them in order of size to show which problems are the most important. It is probably the most often used statistical analysis tool within Toyota—simple, but powerful.
At this point you also want to set targets for improvement. Then you make a first attempt at identifying the point of cause (POC). Where is the problem observed? Where is the likely cause? This will lead you upstream toward the general vicinity of the root cause, which you can discover through five-why analysis. The ultimate purpose of the exercise is to generate and implement a countermeasure and evaluate the results. Only at this point, if the countermeasure is effective, does it become part of a new standardized approach.
The seventh step—standardizing the new process—is very important at Toyota. As mentioned in this chapter and discussed in Standardized Tasks Are the Foundation for Continuous Improvement and Employee Empowerment , standardization and learning go hand in hand and are the basis for continuous improvement. If you do not standardize the improved process, the learning up to that point falls into a black hole, lost, forgotten, and unavailable for further improvements.
Tools, techniques, and metrics aside, Toyota’s greatest emphasis is on thinking through problems and solutions. At Toyota, it is said that problem solving is 20% tools and 80% thinking. Unfortunately, I’ve learned from many Six Sigma programs that some companies get caught up in using all the great and new sophisticated analysis tools, where problem solving seems to be 80% tools and 20% thinking.
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→ Radical Improvement (Kaikaku) : KoRe 10 Tips
The 7-step Problem Solving Process at Toyota
Innovative → problem solving has helped → Toyota become one of the most successful automakers in the world. Toyota can confidently distribute a tremendous amount of responsibility to the people who actually do the work, from the most senior, experienced member of the organization to the most junior. This is accomplished because of the tremendous emphasis on teaching everyone how to be a skillful problem solver .
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Robowin: Basics of Logic and Algorithmics
Logic is the main foundation of computer science. It's the foundation of children's intelligence, which contributes to important processes such as analysis, reasoning, comparison, and many other. Developing a child's logical thinking is as important as abiblities to read, speak, and write.
Logical thinking is not an innate talent. This is a special skill that needs to be developed. There are many ways to do that: solving logical problems, intellectual games, puzzles, various educational services and even computer games.
It is necessary to lay the foundation for the logical skills of children from an early age. Experts in the field of pedagogy recommend developing logic in school students purposefully, especially in the primary grades. But shifting this task to schoolteachers is not an option, because the development of logical thinking is not their main task: at school children receive fundamental knowledge that can develop further.
We have found a way to help parents, and most importantly – children! Specifically for younger schoolchildren from 8 to 10 years old , we have developed a course "Robowin: Basics of Logic and Algorithmics" , which will help children develop logical and algorithmic thinking, as well as get acquainted with the principles of programming.
Who is applicable for the course?
- Interested in programming
- Those who want to develop logical and algorithmic thinking
- Children who show their creativity in different ways
- Construction of linear algorithms
- Sequential and nested loops
- Algorithms with conditions. Conditional statement if, else
- Procedures in programming
- Create libraries. Teamwork
- Continuation cycles. while loop
- Practice of solving problems, building optimal algorithms
- Develop logical and algorithmic thinking with Robowin's visual and easy-to-understand programming environment.
- Prepare children to learn complex programming languages.
The course is perfect for children who are interested in programming. Children will gain the beginning skills of writing code, learn to think logically, practice problem solving, use pre-made programming techniques and develop their own algorithms for solving problems. Moreover, the program does not require a complex programming language – it works through the visual game environment Robowin. In the visualized environment, we will control the movement of the robot on the map and perform various tasks - plant flowers, construct routes, leave the maze, overcome obstacles and return to base.
But how to choose an algorithm to solve the problem? In this caae it is important to know the theory, the basics of programming and algorithmization and have practical experience in solving problems. Our course is based on practical work – we have collected about 250 interesting tasks with complexity in order to consolidate the skills of writing algorithms, develop algorithmic and visual thinking, learn to independently find a solution and create the correct code.
With the help of simple and visual commands, children will get acquainted with linear algorithms, loops, conditions, learn how to create procedures and libraries and even feel like real developers, participating in teamwork during the project.
As part of the Logic and Algorithms at Robowin course, your child will:
- get acquainted with the Robowin development environment;
- learn basic programming concepts;
- learn to create simple linear programs;
- learn to create programs with conditions and loops;
- learn a special programming language adapted to the Robowin development environment;
- learn how to use cycles, conditions, and procedures.
- learn to write and debug their own code, select the optimal solution algorithms;
- acquire teamwork skills;
- receive new knowledge necessary for further development in the field of information technology;
- acquire the skills to create their own procedures and libraries, which is an integral part of the work of an experienced and qualified programmer.
What do I need for the classes?
- To complete the course, the child will need a computer / laptop with programs installed.
- Internet access (check the stability of the Internet connection, from 10 Mbit /s).
- Headphones, as well as additional equipment for better sound quality: a microphone or a headset.
Please make sure that your computer is suitable for the course. Recommendations available by the link .
Instructions for installing programs for the course:
Download here .
from 2 modules (months), from 16 hours*.
individual and group lessons, offline and online (in real time).
Number of students:
from 1 to 8
from $14/hr online group classes from $19.5/hr online individual classes * Depends on the assimilation pace of the material by students.
- Online in groups
- Online individually
- Offline in groups
Graphic Design Adobe Photoshop , Digital art: drawing on a tablet , 3D game modeling in Blender , Robowin: Basics of Logic and Algorithmics , Mobile games development on Android , Creating game characters with Photoshop , Design Thinking , Video editing , Cybersecurity
Programming for the little ones , Creating games with Scratch , Robowin: Basics of Logic and Algorithmics , Public speaking , Programming for the little ones in Tynker , Minecraft in Scratch , My future profession: career guidance for kids
Python game development , Robowin: Basics of Logic and Algorithmics , Harvard CS50 Course , Programming in Python3 , Preparation for the informatics USE , Mathematics course for children
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Spatial Variations of the Activity of 137 Cs and the Contents of Heavy Metals and Petroleum Products in the Polluted Soils of the City of Elektrostal
- DEGRADATION, REHABILITATION, AND CONSERVATION OF SOILS
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- Published: 15 June 2022
- volume 55 , pages 840–848 ( 2022 )
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- D. N. Lipatov 1 ,
- V. A. Varachenkov 1 ,
- D. V. Manakhov 1 ,
- M. M. Karpukhin 1 &
- S. V. Mamikhin 1
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The levels of specific activity of 137 Cs and the contents of mobile forms (1 M ammonium acetate extraction) of heavy metals (Zn, Cu, Ni, Co, Cr, Pb) and petroleum products were studied in the upper soil horizon of urban landscapes of the city of Elektrostal under conditions of local radioactive and chemical contamination were studied. In the soils within a short radius (0–100 m) around the heavy engineering plant, the specific activity of 137 Cs and the contents of mobile forms of Pb, Cu, and Zn were increased. The lognormal distribution law of 137 Cs was found in the upper (0–10 cm) soil layer; five years after the radiation accident, the specific activity of 137 Cs varied from 6 to 4238 Bq/kg. The coefficients of variation increased with an increase in the degree of soil contamination in the following sequence: Co < Ni < petroleum products < Cr < 137 Cs < Zn < Pb < Cu ranging from 50 to 435%. Statistically significant direct correlation was found between the specific activity of 137 Cs and the contents of mobile forms of Pb, Cu, and Zn in the upper horizon of urban soils, and this fact indicated the spatial conjugacy of local spots of radioactive and polymetallic contamination in the studied area. It was shown that the specific activity of 137 Cs, as well as the content of heavy metals and petroleum products in the upper layer (0–10 cm) of the soils disturbed in the course of decontamination, earthwork and reclamation is reduced.
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Contaminants migrate and accumulate in urban ecosystems under the impact of both natural and technogenic factors. The processes of technogenic migration of 137 Cs are most pronounced in radioactively contaminated territories. It was found in urboecological studies that the intensity of sedimentation of aerosol particles containing radionuclides and heavy metals is determined by the types of the surfaces of roofs, walls, roads, lawns, and parks and by their position within the urban wind field [ 12 , 26 ]. Traffic in the cities results in significant transport of dust and associated contaminants and radionuclides [ 15 , 24 ]. During decontamination measures in the areas of Chernobyl radioactive trace, not only the decrease in the level of contamination but also the possibility of secondary radioactive contamination because of the transportation of contaminated soil particles by wind or water, or anthropogenic transfer of transferring of ground were observed [ 5 , 6 ]. Rainstorm runoff and hydrological transport of dissolved and colloidal forms of 137 Cs can result in the accumulation of this radionuclide in meso- and microdepressions, where sedimentation takes place [ 10 , 16 ]. Different spatial distribution patterns of 137 Cs in soils of particular urban landscapes were found in the city of Ozersk near the nuclear fuel cycle works [ 17 ]. Natural character of 137 Cs migration in soils of Moscow forest-parks and a decrease in its specific activity in industrial areas have been revealed [ 10 ]. Determination of the mean level and parameters of spatial variations of 137 Cs in soils is one of primary tasks of radioecological monitoring of cities, including both unpolluted (background) and contaminated territories.
Emissions and discharges from numerous sources of contamination can cause the accumulation of a wide range of toxicants in urban soils: heavy metals (HMs), oil products (OPs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and other chemical substances. Soil contamination by several groups of toxicants is often observed in urban landscapes [ 20 , 23 ] because of the common contamination source or close pathways of the migration of different contaminants. A comprehensive analysis of contamination of urban soils by radionuclides and heavy metals has been performed in some studies [ 21 , 25 ]. The determination of possible spatial interrelationships between radioactive and chemical contaminations in urban soils is an important problem in urban ecology.
A radiation accident took place in the Elektrostal heavy engineering works (EHEW) in April 2013: a capacious source of 137 Cs entered the smelt furnace, and emission of radioactive aerosols from the aerating duct into the urban environment took place. The activity of molten source was estimated at about 1000–7000 Ci [ 14 ]. The area of contamination in the territory of the plant reached 7500 m 2 . However, radioactive aerosols affected a much larger area around the EHEW, including Krasnaya and Pervomaiskaya streets, and reached Lenin Prospect.
Geochemical evaluation of contamination of the upper soil horizon in the city of Elektrostal was carried out in 1989–1991. This survey indicated the anomalies of concentrations of wolfram, nickel, molybdenum, chromium, and other heavy metals related to accumulation of alloying constituent and impurities of non-ferrous metals in the emissions of steelmaking works [ 19 ].
The aim of our work was to determine the levels of specific activity of 137 Cs, concentrations of mobile forms of heavy metals (Zn, Cu, Ni, Co, Cr, and Pb) and oil products in the upper soil horizons in different urban landscapes of the city of Elektrostal under the conditions of local radioactive and chemical contamination.
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Lomonosov Moscow State University, 119991, Moscow, Russia
D. N. Lipatov, V. A. Varachenkov, D. V. Manakhov, M. M. Karpukhin & S. V. Mamikhin
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Correspondence to D. N. Lipatov .
The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.
Translated by T. Chicheva
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Lipatov, D.N., Varachenkov, V.A., Manakhov, D.V. et al. Spatial Variations of the Activity of 137 Cs and the Contents of Heavy Metals and Petroleum Products in the Polluted Soils of the City of Elektrostal. Eurasian Soil Sc. 55 , 840–848 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1134/S1064229322060072
Received : 21 October 2021
Revised : 22 December 2021
Accepted : 30 December 2021
Published : 15 June 2022
Issue Date : June 2022
DOI : https://doi.org/10.1134/S1064229322060072
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