Manufacturing Today - May/June 2017 - 14
COLUMN BY | SUNDEEP SANGHAVI
Relevancy of the Five Whys
in the time of big data, it is important to ask "why"
For those who don't already know, the
Five Whys are an interrogation technique designed to explore cause-andeffect relationships as related to specific problems. It was developed by
Sakichi Toyoda, founder of the Toyota
car company and hero of the Japanese
The number of whys (five, obviously), is taken from the anecdotal
manufacturing-today.com MAY/JUNE 2017
observation that - more often than
not - five iterations of "why" were
needed to find the root cause of any
given problem. The idea behind this
is that asking "why" of a situation
five times would be sufficient to find
a way to solve problems with machinery and processes.
One example of the Five Whys
goes as follows: a robot stops work-
ing and engineers are trying to fix it.
"Why did the robot stop?" asks engineer number one, with number two
replying that the circuit overloaded
and blew a fuse. "Why is the circuit
overloaded?" number one continues,
only to be informed that the bearings were insufficiently lubricated.
After asking why there was insufficient lubrication, number one learns
from number two that the robot's
oil pump "is not circulating enough
oil." "Why is that?" number one asks,
"because the pump intake is clogged
with metal shavings."
"And why is it clogged?"
"There is no filter on the pump."
These five questions, asked in succession, have identified the root cause
of the problem, which now puts engineers in a position to fix it. Originally intended for an earlier industrial
age, the technique of the Five Whys
is as relevant now as it has ever been.
Moreover, it is also applicable to new
fields and industries, such as Big Data
and machine learning.
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O P E R AT I O N S
The "Five Whys" is an iterative concept for problem solving that was developed almost two centuries ago. Once used to find solutions in a previous era, the technique is as relevant as it has ever
been as Big Data marches on in its supremacy.
Why is the technique
One big reason as to why the Five
Whys remain crucial is recalls. They
remain a constant and ever-present
problem within manufacturing, resulting in high costs and - at times -
shattered consumer confidence.
The Five Whys - which were formal-