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The 9S method is a 9-step problem-solving method described in European standard-en 9136 by IAQG


The 9S method is a problem-solving method described in the European standard-en 9136 by IAQG (International Aerospace Quality Group), the institution in charge of continuous quality improvement for the aerospace and defence sector. This new standard published in 2018 is an improvement of the ISO 9100 standard.

Objective of the 9S method

The objective of continuous improvement is to reduce the number of problems (undesirable conditions, faults and failures) but also to minimise their impact on quality, delivery performance and costs.

Several important problems are caused by small problems that have been discovered but have never been resolved due to incorrect analyses and/or ineffective actions.

Often, organizations and their vendors do not provide the correct results of root cause analysis and problem solving for the following reasons:

  • There are no clear criteria for what constitutes an acceptable corrective action plan (people are satisfied when they no longer receive defective parts and they stop)
  • People continue to accept the wrong answers (even if they say they will not, the reality makes them accept)
  • People (internal and external) do not have the culture

The new standard emphasizes three elements:

  1. Problem solving and a systemic process and not a single event response activity
  2. Management’s commitment to problem-solving processes is essential.
  3. Communication is obligatory with internal actors as external.

The 9 steps

Step 1: Set up immediate containment actions

The objective is to act quickly, within 24 hours and to protect the link from the consequences of the problems and to prevent the problem from deteriorating and complicatesing. Different solutions are possible: Stop production, set up control 100%, outsource time to…

Step 2: Build the Team

The challenge is to build a selected team in relation to the impact of the problem on their business and what they can take to solve it. The method proposes “6” function :

  • A person who “sees” the problem.
  • A person who suffers from the problem
  • A person with the responsibility to resolve it
  • A person who can help solve it, usually a technical expert of the subject
  • A person who can contribute to the resolution

Step 3: Define the problem

The objective : go on the Gemba together to understand the importance, impact and magnitude of the problem and to ensure that the situation is fully described and understood, i.e.:

  • Result : problem defined and accepted (what product, what process, what defect or deviation)
  • What : this step makes it possible to fully describe a situation, to analyze precisely all the elements and to acquire a common understanding, which allows to define an action plan. The method proposes to use the analysis table below
  • Why : often, the first time a problem is formulated, it is vague, subjective or even abstract. Without a correct definition of the problem, it is likely that the root cause is not identified and that incorrect or insufficient actions are implemented.
Is Is not Particularity Change Date
What Object
Where Location
When Date
How many Object


Step 4: Finalize and improve containment actions

At this stage it is necessary to verify that the containment actions work well. improve them if necessary. We also need to be able to identify the time it will take to find definitive solutions, the risk being to be satisfied with these containment actions.

Note that this step is not closed until effective permanent corrective actions are in place.

Step 5: Identify root causes

Understand and map the process and then define the actions to be taken to find the root cause (or causes), particularly:

Step 6: Define and select corrective actions

When all root causes are identified, one or more actions can be identified to eliminate the problem. This work is done in groups considering the costs, the necessary resources … Thus for each solution, the selection will be done by determining for each of them:

  • The probability of correcting the cause
  • The risk to generate another problem
  • Implementation difficulties: delays, costs …
  • Stability in time of the solution
  • Simplicity to measure its beneficial effect of the solution

Step 7: Implement the corrective actions and check their effectiveness.

Implement the different solutions selected in the previous step. For that :

  • Build the deployment plan as a group, being careful to obtain the consensus and commitment of all.
  • Identify the responsible persons and due date of each action. Set up regular reviews to validate the progress of the project and check the maintenance of the actions (process confirmation)
  • Identify what to measure for effectiveness and who, where, when, and how to measure.
  • Perform the measurement and compare with the results of steps 3 and 4
  • If effectiveness is not verified, return to step 5.

Step 8: Standardize and transfer acquired knowledge to other locations.

Formalise and standardize decisions made and actions taken throughout the process and develop effective knowledge management to transfer ideas, lessons learned, best practices, etc. To all other stakeholders and other production chains, factories or similar suppliers that may require similar actions to be implemented.

This will require:

  • Compile all documentation, instructions, analyses, flowcharts, etc.
  • Ensure that all working documents (work and inspection instructions, purchase orders, etc.) are updated and available at any time.
  • Update the competency matrix, training modules and deploy training accordingly
  • Update computer systems and tools to support all design and process changes.
  • Capture and share knowledge
  • Identify all other data, products, production lines, factories or suppliers that may be affected by the same type of condition, situation, non-compliance or undesirable failure (design, process, material

Step 9: Recognize the success of the team and close the project.

Ensure that all team members and stakeholders are aware of the success of the implementation of all actions. Confirm that all actions have been successfully implemented, record the synthesis of causes, actions and methodologies,

Verify that all steps and actions are complete, in particular:

  • The undesirable state, the situation, the non-conformity or the failure has not reappeared and there is a high level of confidence that it will never do.
  • All actions and decisions have been properly documented and stored
  • Lessons learned were discussed, in particular how the problem-solving and root cause analysis processes were managed (successful actions and behaviours, possible errors to avoid in the future, etc.). Inform all people who have been affected by non-compliance, recognize those who have been involved in the corrective action process and dissolve the team.
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