Using an A3 to Implement Lean and Energy Saving Recommendations

by Shawn Crawford, M.F. 

Energy savings as a result of lean implementation is significantly overlooked (EPA 2007).  By eliminating non-valued added activities lean production processes are missing important opportunities to improve performance and reduce costs. The Lean Energy Tool Kit ( EPA 2007) suggests a number of methods for assessing lean opportunities and reducing energy use with lean methods. An A3 will be used to format the assessment of the lean opportunities and reduce energy use by implementing lean principles.

An A3 is a common tool used in lean manufacturing to solve process problems and implement solutions (Sobek and Smalley 2008). A3s are commonly used by the Toyota Production System (TPS) to implement improvements on the process (Sobek and Smalley 2008).  TPS uses A3’s to solve problems, resulting in effective planning, decision-making, and execution (Shook 2008).  An A3 helps a company identify, frame, and then act on a problem. The following is the format for a basic A3 provided by Sobek and Smalley (2008):

  • Background– explains the purpose for choosing the issue as well as provides information on the issue
  • Current Condition- is an assessment of the current issue and explains the gap in performance
  • Target/ Goal Condition– indicate the specific improvements in performance that are necessary to obtain the optimal performance level
  • Problem Analysis– get to the root cause of the issue and indicate why there are performance gaps
  • Recommendations– create options that address the gaps and improve performance in the current situation
  • Implementation Plan (countermeasures)–  indicate the actions and outcomes in the implementation process that are necessary to fill in the gap in performance
  • Check (results)- make sure the plans have been followed and the actions have had the impact planned and needed

In this research, an A3 is used to evaluate issues associate with energy inefficiencies in the forest products industry. The A3 will be used to asses and evaluate energy recommendations on energy inefficiency within a wood manufacturing plant. This research takes a look at the impact of implementing an A3 to resolve issues found during a current assessment of the process using energy and value stream mapping.   By incorporating lean tools like value stream mapping, production performance and efficiency can be enhanced without throwing high energy consuming automated systems or technology to improve the process (EPA 2007).   Lean manufacturing allows an operation to enhance production performance which has a direct correlation on energy consumption.  For example, Packaging Plus LLC, a packaging provider located in La Mirada, California, saved $558,000 per year in labor, improved productivity 41 percent, and reduced annual energy use by 613,629 kWh, for a savings of $61,000 per year, by conducting a value and energy stream mapping workshop and two kaizen events (EPA 2007).

It is important for a company to develop a road map for energy consumption to effectively use information gathered from an audit for improvement.  The following are some general steps that should be taken when creating a A3 oriented towards reducing energy consumption:

Initial Assessment- Perform a SWOT analysis considering the opportunities, risks, and costs of energy management.

Design Process- Assess the company’s energy needs and how those needs should be approached.

Evaluate Opportunities- Identify and prioritize alternative energy saving improvement opportunities like, energy intensive process, unreliable grid, energy-supply options, energy saving products and services.

Implementation- Use a well-organized and effective energy management system, for example Energy Star’s Guidelines for Energy Management, to implement energy saving opportunities

The following is an example of project that used the Lean and Energy Tool Kit to assess and reduce electrical consumption:

Figure 1. A3 Snapshot.

Figure 1 is a snap shot of an A3 report used to reduce energy consumption.  The A3 report was used to apply lean principles and reduce energy consumption. The purpose of this project was to assess and reduce electrical consumption. This A3 addresses not being able to separately turn on different dust collectors within a plant. The project was assessed by using value and energy stream mapping as well as kaizen events. Using total productive maintenance and right sized equipment, the dust collection system was identified as inefficient system that needed to be improved, reducing waste in the form of over-processing. A brief overview of the A3 report is displayed in Table 1.

 Table 1:                 Main Features of Addressing Kaizen Bursts


Main Features Addressed

Overview of A3

BACKGROUND:Both dust collection systems have to be turned on simultaneously. This causes waste electrical consumption because both motors do not have to be running all the time.CURRENT CONDITION:Both start-up at the same time

  • Motor A and B= 219.7 kWh


Separate start-ups for motor A and B

  • Running Motor A= 100.5 kWh
  • Running Motor B= 119.2 kWh


  • Install control system to alternate start-ups
  • Develop a start-up and running schedule based on production


  • Wages= $1,500
  • Control System= $2,000
  • Total= $3,500


  • Running Motor A Saves 119.2 kWh per day= Less than 2 months
  • Running Motor B Saves 100.5 kWh per day= Less than 2 months


  • Reduce total indirect consumption by 2.43  kWh per day

Table 1 shows how lean principles were applied to address energy waste.  The dust collection system for this project was not properly retrofitted and maintained for the plant causing inefficient use of energy. Using value and energy stream mapping as well as kaizen events, current consumption of the dust collection system was recorded as 219.7 kWh.  By retrofitting the equipment to allow it to alternate start-up for each motor and creating total productive maintenance schedule for the dust collection system, there is a possibility of saving over 100kWh per day.

As shown in the outcomes of Table 1, using an A3 to evaluate electrical consumption is critical in providing valuable feedback on energy waste. An A3 allows a manager to organize and address any issue associated with energy waste. In order to identify and assess current electrical consumption and the process, lean tools like value stream mapping can be incorporated. Incorporating energy into the value stream map allows a manager to see both energy and process waste. However, in order to address an energy and process waste, the manager must organize and implement recommendations to the process. An A3 is an effective tool for measuring the impact of implementing energy saving recommendations in a forest products manufacturing setting.


  1. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 2007. Lean and Energy Toolkit. Washington D.C.: Ross & Associates Environmental Consulting, Ltd. Last Accessed Feb. 17, 2012
  2. Shook, John. 2012. Managing to Learn: Using the A3 Management Process to Solve Problems, Gain Agreement, Mentor, and Lead. The Lean Enterprise Institute, Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2008. Last Accessed Dec. 4.
  3. Sobek II, K. Durward and Smalley, Art.  2008. Understanding A3 Thinking: A Critical Component of Toyota’s PDCA Management System. Taylor &Francis Group, LLC, New York City, New York.  Last Accessed Dec. 4, 2012.