Phil Acock in the Fourayes Fruit Processing plant

Fruit industry comment and insights from Phil Acock

Jan 4, 2017

Why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why?


Hot on the heels of my last blog about Santa’s challenging logistics, I recently learned that I have something in common with Mr Sakichi Toyoda, founder of Toyota Industries Co Ltd.

I’m not suggesting we’re related. I’m not advocating for one moment that Fourayes should take on the automotive industry. It’s not even the fact that Mr Toyoda and I share a common engineering background. No, the thing that we have in common is our unfailing faith in the word ‘why’.

Sakichi Toyoda is often referred to as the father of the Japanese industrial revolution. A prodigious inventor, he also pioneered the principle of ‘5 Whys’ – an interrogative technique that can be used to solve almost any and every problem.

In Mr Toyoda’s world he might encounter the statement ‘the vehicle won’t start’. The non-starting is a symptom, but what’s the cause? It could be that the battery’s flat but is that the real underlying reason?

Here’s how the 5 Whys questioning might proceed...

The car won’t start!
Why? – the battery’s flat
Why? – the alternator isn’t working
Why? – the fan belt has broken
Why? – because it was old
Why? – because the car wasn’t serviced according to the recommended schedule

So, it wasn’t the battery after all – the underlying problem, in this particular case, is poor servicing!

The ‘5 Whys’ technique is staggeringly simple and utterly effective.

I won’t go into the methodologies for performing the 5 Whys here (a simple internet search will provide everything you need to know about the subject) but whether it’s a recalcitrant computer or a malfunctioning piece of complex industrial machinery, 5 Whys can cut through the complexity.

Use it when production hasn’t met target levels, when machine downtime is an issue, when the productivity in any area of the business is a cause for concern. Use it when your NPD team faces a difficult challenge or when a product fails.

When our Aseptic puree line caused us a significant problem earlier in the year, none of the ‘obvious’ candidate-faults were responsible. The culprit was a series of the finest hairline cracks inside a tube that, itself, was inside another tube.

5 Whys is a great tool for resolving just this type of problem.

It works just as well outside of the working environment; believe it or not, from planning your holiday to dealing with a domestic crisis!

So, if you haven’t used the 5 Whys technique before I urge you to try it.

Why? – because it delivers amazing results
Why? – because it leads to root causes
Why? – because it doesn’t stop at the obvious solutions
Why? – because it interrogates and identifies imposter solutions
Why? – because Mr Sakichi Toyoda knew a thing or two about building a great company where complex problems needed to be solved daily!

Phil Acock,
Managing Director and Mad Scientist at Fourayes; the UK’s number one grower and processor of English Bramley apples and processor of fruits from the UK and across the globe.

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24/09/17

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