Leveraging Shainin for Quicker and More Efficient Problem Solving: A Discussion with Ha Dao, Director at SSA & Company

Ha Dao

Today’s busy Process Excellence professionals need solutions to their process improvement problems not in weeks or months, but in days. Shainin can help to accomplish this task. In this Six Sigma IQ interview, Ha Dao, Director for SSA & Company (formerly Six Sigma Academy), explains how the Shainin methodology can be leveraged for more efficient and quicker problem solving.

Please talk a bit about your Process Excellence background.

I work as a Director for SSA & Company (formerly Six Sigma Academy). SSA is a global operation consulting firm. I work with deployment teams to achieve process improvements through consulting, training, project execution and change management. I train, coach and mentor Black Belts Master Black Belts, and Champions using Lean Six Sigma to solve problems.

Prior to joining SSA & Company, I worked as the Manager, Innovation and Continuous Improvement Methodology (I&CIM) for Delphi Corporation. In this position, I provided leadership to deploy Lean Six Sigma, Design for Six Sigma (DFSS), and Shainin Problem Solving for $3 billion multi-business units globally. I specialize in providing problem solving expertise to solve urgent, critical and chronic manufacturing and technical problems.

Earlier in my career, I also worked as Master Black Belt and Shainin Red X Master for seven years with Delphi Corporation and General Motors, where I trained teams to solve chronic technical problems. I also executed and led teams to solve over 100 projects, which together delivered over $50 million in savings.

With more than 25 years of experience, I’m certified as a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt, Shainin Red X Master and recognized by the American Society for Quality as an ASQ Fellow.

Define Shainin. How does it fall within the realm of structured innovation, and why would Process Excellence professionals choose to use this method over other process improvement/structured innovation methodologies?

Structured Innovation is about doings things differently and doing things significantly better. In this sense, Shainin fits that description very well. Shainin is all about technical problem solving. It’s a structured problem solving method that combines engineering insight with statistical thinking to solve tough technical problems quickly and efficiently.

Shainin uses a radically different approach which is called the Y to X (or Effect to Cause) to converge on the root cause. This is a huge paradigm shift of the traditional approach of X to Y, which is listing of potential causes (Xs) through brainstorming and engineering judgment then test to see if the Xs have an effect on the Y.

Why is a Y to X strategy so efficient? Like reverse engineering, it starts out with a well defined effect, Y, which is a measured response that has engineering leverage and reveals insight into the physics of the failure. Shainin also combines the Y to X approach with "talking-to-the parts" technique by forcing the parts to reveal the insights and clues to the nature of the problem. As you know, most tough problems often involve interactions that are not yet understood or recognized through experience alone. By asking clever questions of the best and worst examples, the cause driving the differences is revealed in the answers.

During the progressive search investigation, each stage is divided into natural buckets or splits of causes. By leveraging the contrasts, these buckets are progressively eliminated to converge on the dominant cause, which is called the Red X. Combining Y to X strategy and "talking to the parts" technique provides a very powerful problem solving strategy.

How may Shainin be used to help complement other structured innovation/process improvement methodologies such as Lean Six Sigma?

Shainin can be used to complement the Lean Six Sigma methodology. I have worked with many clients in which Shainin problem solving skills allows the Green Belts or Black Belts to find and eradicate root causes of problem faster with fewer resources. Shainin is particularly powerful in the Analyze phase of the Six Sigma DMAIC. Shainin finds the root cause extremely fast, most of the times in days instead of weeks or months. Shainin can take your Lean Six Sigma program to the next level!

What are some of the most basic tools that Shainin employs?

Let me describe some of the basic tools as they occur in the problem solving process.

Shainin uses the Problem Definition Tree to convert business problems to high-value projects. Then it uses Project Definition Tree to convert a project to a well defined Y or response with engineering leverage. It uses Strategy Diagram to identify most leveraged direction. Isoplot is then used to make sure the measurement system is effective. Clue generation tools such as Component Search, Group Comparison, Pair Comparison are used to converge on the Red X. B vs. W confirmation test is then used to confirm the Red X. Tolerance Parallelogram is used to set the proper tolerance. Pre-Control is used to keep the problem under control. These are some of the basic tools.

Take me through a brief case study to show how someone can employ some of these basic tools. How did you get to the root cause of the problem? What was the end result?

Several years ago, I was involved in a brake leaks case. This is when you are driving down the road, step on the brakes and nothing happens. It’s not a good thing.

Shainin was used to solve this huge brake leaks; we called it a "spill" on a drum brake application of a major automotive original manufacturer (OEM). This leak problem was causing the OEM to hold vehicle shipments and required very expensive and time consuming repair at the end of the production line. Using the Shainin Y to X approach, progressive search and "talk-to-the-parts" investigative technique, the Red X was quickly found to be surface imperfection of the sealing interface which was causing the leaks. The Red X was confirmed with statistical confidence and controlled within a few days, allowing the plant to resume normal productions. Savings and cost avoidance exceeded one million dollars annually. This is a typical case study where a tough project is solved very quickly.

How can a company get started with using Shainin? What sort of training is involved with mastering Shainin?

You can get the Shainin skills through training, coaching and project work. Shainin offers certification like Six Sigma program. There are three levels of competency or belts. The first is Apprentice Level (like Green Belt). The second level is Journeyman (like Black Belt). And the highest level is Shainin Master (like Master Black Belt). Similar to Lean Six Sigma, in addition to the training in the classroom, working on projects and coaching are the major components of gaining the Shainin skills.

What are the key takeaways of Shainin that Process Excellence professionals should share with their companies?

Shainin is complimentary with Six Sigma programs and Lean initiatives. Shainin supports the customer focus, data driven project-based improvements and senior leadership engagement found in all successful performance improvement programs. Shainin will take problem solving to the next level, finding the root cause much faster and with fewer resources.

As a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt working with many clients, I have seen first hand that Shainin techniques have solved many tough technical problems in days, not weeks or months. And many problems were deemed unsolvable. I would encourage Process Excellence professionals to consider Shainin techniques the next time they face a very tough problem that needs to be solved fast.

Interview by Genna Weiss