A3 is a structured problem solving and continuous improvement approach, first employed at Toyota and typically used by lean manufacturing practitioners. It provides a simple and strict approach systematically leading towards problem solving over structured approaches.
A3 leads towards problem solving over the structure, placed on an ISO - ISO A3 single sheet paper. This is where the process got its name. A3 is also known as SPS, which stands for "Systematic Problem Solving". The process is based on the principles of Edward Deming's PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act).
The A3 approach is divided into a number of steps which can vary. Most often, eight (8) problem-solving steps are used.
Some examples of A3 Problem Solving Steps are:
- Problem description, Initial Perception (PLAN)
- Breakdown of the Problem, Problem Clarification (PLAN)
- Mapping out for this step can be driven by a set of questions. For example, the "5 W's (what, where, when, why, who) and 2H's" (how, how many).
- Point of Cause, Setting Target (PLAN)
- Containment (PLAN)
- Cause and Effect, Ishikawa (PLAN)
- Follow Up Action, Corrective Actions (DO)
- Effect Confirmation (CHECK)
- Share the successfully implemented actions (ACT)
These steps are followed by any Follow Up Actions.