A3 reports are the written documents that succinctly record the PDCA cycle problem solving effort, often providing a bit more structure than the four steps. The thought process and steps are very similar to the Practical Problem Solving method. This is sometimes called “A3 thinking.” The PDCA thought process is more important than the specific A3 report format.
The name A3 comes from the international size of paper that’s approximately 11 by 17-inches (in landscape orientation) traditionally used by Toyota and Lean organizations for these reports.
The left side of the A3 is for the Plan step of PDCA. It should include a title, a statement of the problem and a description of the current state. This side is filled out with such information as facts, graphs, charts, key performance indicators, value stream maps and 5 Whys root cause analysis, to name a few. The fact that the Plan step takes close to fifty percent of the entire report is an indication of the importance Toyota places on planning.
The right side of the document contains the Do, Check and Act steps of the cycle. This side might contain the implementation plan (along with the “who”, “what”, “where”, “when” and “how”), the future state value stream map, a short cost/benefit analysis, the result of the implementation plan, the root causes that were eliminated (or not), the changes in policy and procedures (the new standardized work) and a date to revisit the issue in order to continually improve.
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