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A3 Report Templates: Problem Solving Made Easier

What is an A3 Report? What are the 7 Elements of an A3 Audit? How is it structured? And how can a digital solution benefit your business? All these questions and more are answered in the article below. Keep reading to find out how you can develop better problem-solving strategies!

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What Is an A3 Report?


Originally a part of the lean management philosophy of the Toyota Production System (TPS), A3 Reports are a one-page document used for information progress reporting and rational decision-making.


A3 Reports make reporting simple since they contain straightforward summaries of numerous detailed reports and analyses. To be more precise, they are usually compiled in graph, chart, or bullet point format as a visual representation of the gathered data. Therefore, they are often called “one-pagers”.


Fun fact: The name “A3” is derived from the metric paper size that the report is produced on (equivalent to a paper size of 11 inches x 17 inches).



This article briefly explains:


1. 7 elements of A3 report thinking


2. The PDCA cycle in the A3 report template


3. Structure of an A3 report form


4. Example of an A3 problem-solving report


5. Benefits of A3 problem-solving


6. Technology to support an A3 report



What Are the 7 Elements of a Lean A3 Report Template?


It’s easy enough to identify problems. How to solve them requires critical thinking skills with the base knowledge of technical, business, industry-specific expertise. The A3 thinking is a formula that aims to develop a specific mindset towards problem-solving. All you have to do is plug in the numbers. Here it is summarized in 7 elements:


  1. Logical Thinking – A3 is a step-based process.
  2. Straightforward and objective representation of information.
  3. Always sharing the 5 whys of how an end results was achieved.
  4. Giving only necessary information and using as many visuals as possible.
  5. All the actions must comply with the company’s strategy and objectives.
  6. The goal is to create a consistent perspective that can be adjusted across the whole company.
  7. Making the problem-solving process more structured.


What is the PDCA Cycle in an A3 Report Template?


Each A3 report uses the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle - a standard management method. The scientific approach behind it is aimed at this:


  • To define the desired results and the proposed solution to achieve this goal (plan)
  • Test the proposed solution and collected data for effectiveness (implementation)
  • Analyse the data obtained from the test and compare the results with the desired outcome (check)
  • Adapting the solution based on the data from the "Implementation" and "Check" phases until the objectives have been achieved (action)


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How to Create an A3 Report?


A template for the A3 report is divided into seven analyses and work steps. These steps were designed to intervene when a problem arises or a new standard is introduced. First, the four analysis steps refer to the planning phase of the PDCA cycle. The remaining three work steps reflect the do, check, and act phases of the cycle.


1. Describe the Background and Problems


This step outlines the problem. It must be described, in a way, that all employees involved understand the problem and its effects. Besides, the description should show the relevance of the problem solution for achieving the company's goals.


2. Capture the Current Situation


In this section, the actual state is described vividly and in as much detail as possible. This can be supported by presenting facts clearly in tables and graphics. It is the hope that by doing this, the problem’s origins can be identified, and subsequent steps can be taken to analyze why the affected processes haven’t yet reached their target state.


3. Describe the Target State


The target state must be clearly defined. As a rule, it is more effective to start with the desired end result and work backward from there. It should then be clarified how the team is going to achieve this target state, which measurement methods they’ll be using to define success, and what key figure will be used as a benchmark for comparison?


4. Carry out Cause Analysis


Cause analysis aims to determine the factors that have a direct influence on the problem. Starting points for effective measures can be derived from the influencing factors. An Ishikawa diagram can be used to identify the root cause of the problem.


5. Propose of Countermeasures


This step lists all measures that contribute to achieving the target status. These include measures to eliminate the root causes and subsequently help move the actual state closer to its target state. The following questions should be answered: What is the respective (sub-)problem? How is the problem solved? Who is responsible? When will the measure be implemented? Where will it be carried out?


6. Check the Success of the Effect


Assessing the success of the A3 method shouldn’t be forgotten. Now would be a good time to check if the implemented measure has generated the planned result. If at any point a variable or measurement deviates from its projected state, it should be documented and dealt with immediately. Keep in mind the success of the planned measures should be quantifiable, and a graphic companion will help with comprehensibility.


7. Standardization and Follow-Up


In the last step, the whole process is evaluated. What additional measures, if any, should be taken to secure your goal? Particularly, if a measure proves successful, you should incorporate it as a standard in your process of operations. In this way, your gained experience can be applied to other tasks and problems and benefit those in other company divisions.



What Does an A3 Report Example Look Like?


Trying to conduct A3 process improvements for the first time without an example can be tricky even for the most seasoned professionals. As already established, there are seven steps to thinking through a problem by using the A3 method. In the section below, we’ll walk you through how to use the template step-by-step, so you’ll be prepared to handle the most head-scratching problems.


Example Premis


For the sake of this example, we’re going to pretend there’s a hitch in our company’s largest project to date that prevents us from moving forward. Any major time delays will cause the company not to deliver on time, costing them $100,000 for every day they are late. A major delay will also cause the company to go over budget and risk the loss of our best-paying customer.


We need to improve the problem-solving process to yield better results in a fraction of the time and with more creative solutions. But how do we achieve creative solutions with an A3 report? Let’s break this problem down step-by-step:


  1. Provide Background Information
  2. First, ask yourself: What problem is your business facing?


    Our business is facing a scheduling delay. Our biggest customer has ordered a shipment of 200,000 shoes arrive at their warehouse on the 2-1-2022. Today is 1-1-2022. We received the order on 12-1-2021, giving us two months to complete the order. Because of the strict due date and the time crunch, we planned to produce 100,00 shoes per month. However, after assessing the numbers at the end of last month, we are 25,000 shoes behind schedule. If we continue as is, there’s no reason to believe we will be 50,000 shoes short by the end of this month. We need a solution to increase production. Otherwise, we risk losing our client’s future business.


    Second: What are the consequences of this issue for your business?


    • Costs $100,000 each day we exceed the due date.
    • Currently 25,000 shoes short
    • Will be 50,000 shoes short by the due date.
    • Risk losing a major client if problem isn’t rectified soon

    Third: Why are you addressing this issue?


    The goal is to increase production to meet the deadline and acquire a permanent solution that will help us rapidly adapt if a similar situation arises in the future.


    Forth: What categories does this issue fall under?


    Production


    Fifth: How urgent is this issue?


    Extremely urgent


  3. Describe the Current Situation
  4. Attach a photo document


    The A3 project reports are short documents made easier to understand with visual aids. A picture is worth a thousand words, and this is one of the main reasons these documents can get away with being so short. The visual companions can be a chart, graph, photo of the problem. Otherwise, break the rest of the information into small, digestible segments.


    What containment measures have already been implemented to reduce the impact on the business


    • Incentivizing employees to work overtime
    • Tracking individual employee’s production rates to isolate personal inefficiencies
    • Taking resources from other, lower priority projects

    List all employees involved or affected by this issue.


    • Prodcution line workers who are working overtime

  5. What is the Target State
  6. What is the target state or goal after the problem has been solved?


    The goal is to produce 150,000 shoes by the end of this month when our current production rate is 75,000 shoes per month. We are looking to increase production to 200%.


    When will you achieve this target state?


    Target state will be achieved by 2-1-2022


    How will you achieve this target state? Do you have a step-by-step plan?


    Answer yes and no. Skipping this step might seem like a better use of your time, but like all questions, there’s a reason for asking it. Answering with a definitive “yes” or “no” garners insight into the most important part of the entire A3 lean method report besides identifying the initial problem: having a plan to solve it.


    How will you quantify or measure your progress towards the target state?


    The target state will be quantified by the number of shoes produced.


    What are the expected benefits?


    • Meeting the deadline
    • Keeping a major client
    • Increasing the profit margin on future projects
    • Increasing worker efficiency
    • Staying on budget

  7. Perform Root Cause Analysis With the 5 Whys Method
    1. Why - Why were we under the monthly quota by 25,000 shoes? We were under quota due to an assembly line shut down. One of our machines broke down is currently under maintenance.
    2. Why - Why did the machine break down? It broke down because its scheduled monthly inspection and maintenance were not performed.
    3. Why - Why was the scheduled monthly machine inspection and maintenance not performed? It was not performed because the paperwork was lost.
    4. Why - Why was the production not absorbed by the other machines currently in commission? The machines are already at max production capacity.
    5. Why - Why haven’t we bought more machines to increase production? The command was not made to order more.

  8. Propose Countermeasures
  9. Please propose a list of countermeasures:


    • Switch to a digital checklist system with a scheduling and notification feature, so no more inspections and maintenance checks are missed.
    • Buy five more machines to increase production. Each machine can produce approximately 25,000 shoes. This would help us reach our quota and return the borrowed machines back to lower priority projects.
    • Once the machines have arrived, we can take the employees off overtime.
    • Double check that all the machines received their monthly inspections and maintenance checks.

    Did you create a diagram to visualize your plan?

    Yes.


    Did you clearly allocate roles and responsibilities to solve the problem?

    Yes


  10. Check the Success Rate
  11. Has the proposed countermeasure been implemented successfully?

    Yes.


    Which countermeasure has been implemented?


    • We bought a subscription to Lumiform, a digital checklist and template company with a scheduling and notification feature.
    • We ordered five machines to absorb the production deficiencies.
    • Once the machines have arrived, we will take all employees off overtime.
    • All current machines have received their monthly maintenance checks.

    What were the difficulties with implementing the countermeasures, and how can you overcome them?


    The machines took two weeks to arrive. However, we ordered five machines, so they will be able to compensate for the lost time. We propose we have production checks bi-monthly instead of once a month. to catch any issues with machines and quotas earlier.


  12. Include the Date, Time, and Relevant Signatures
    The final step to completing the A3 document is luckily the easiest. Include the date and time and finish it off with your John Hancock.

  13. 1-1-2022

    John Hancock


Now that you’ve read through an A3 process improvement example, it’s time to put what you’ve learned into action. Want to use this lean A3 report template to dissect problems for your business? You can download it for free as a pdf or use it for free online or with our mobile app.



Using an A3 report checklist to help solve a puzzle

What are Some of the Benefits of A3 Problem-Solving?


The advantages of an A3 model can be summarized in the following bullet points:


  • A3 reporting is a consistent reporting tool that promotes mentoring and team-building in general.
  • It encourages information sharing within the organization, thus, promoting learning and continuous improvement.
  • The A3 system stands for a commitment to common objectives, which strengthens the levels of responsibility.
  • An A3 report is used not just for problem-solving but also for suggesting improvements, reporting, and coaching, etc.


How can I use Technology to Support an A3 Report Template?


The effectiveness of the A3 model depends strongly on the successful analysis and interpretation of the data. With a versatile app for data collection, analysis, and template creation like Lumiform, companies can take full advantage of an A3 problem sheet.


A template for the A3 report can be easily created via the app by tablet or smartphone - online or offline. The A3 report template is created via desktop software and is immediately available to all responsible employees. The data is collected with the respective mobile device on-site and can be evaluated later on the desktop for easier viewing.


Lumiform guides employees through all documentation processes, thus, significantly reducing the risk of documentation errors. The digital solution for the A3 report offers many more advantages, such as:


  • All audit results are automatically bundled into a report and can be sent to stakeholders.
  • Generate real-time data via internal processes. This makes quality and safety measurable while processes are continuously optimized based on the collected data.
  • Increase the efficiency of internal processes: Through more efficient communication within the team, third parties, and management, as well as faster reporting, problems are solved up to 4x faster than before.
  • All data is stored centrally and can be accessed at any time.
  • Comprehensive analyses help to uncover inefficient areas in your company more quickly and, thus, works to continuously improve the audit processes.


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