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Intermittent Problems

Intermittent problems are simply ones that don’t occur every time a process is performed. The inconsistency with which intermittent problems present makes them extremely hard to resolve.

The most common form of intermittent problem is the computer glitch. Something happens once, and then the problem goes away for a while.

The truth is that there really is no such thing as an intermittent problem. All outputs are a function of the inputs and the process used to alter the inputs. (See our SIPOC analysis sheet) The reality is that given the same set of inputs going through the same process, the output will always be the same.

What is really happening is that there are subtle shifts in the inputs or the processes that create an undesirable outcome. When those shifts happen randomly, they are observed as intermittent problems.

To resolve an intermittent problem, therefore, one must focus on reducing the variation of both the inputs and the processes. Process improvement can be accomplished by applying Lean principles, such as standard work and 5S.

Inputs, likewise, also benefit from Lean efforts, especially when they come from internal suppliers, or are related to factory conditions.

You may experience more difficulty promoting Lean to external suppliers, though it is certainly a good choice to do so. If a supplier us unwilling to improve its processes, your company will likely resort to inspections, penalties, and possibly even looking for alternate suppliers.


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