The 5M+E model is a management classification system for exploring root causes analysis. Also known by other variations, 5M+E represents the factors involved in cause and effect troubleshooting: mankind, machine, materials, method, measurement, and environment.
5M+E first originated as a method called 5M, which was developed by T.P. Wright for aeronautical engineering. He developed something called the “man-machine-environment” triad, which is shown below.
The interlocking circles represent a holistic management approach to aviation safety. Wright’s model included 5 Ms:
While Mission is at the heart of the method, Management is the largest circle and is meant to embody all of the other factors.
The 5M model was developed by Wright while he was at Cornell University during the mid-20th Century, and like many other management methodologies, has evolved greatly since then. Nonetheless, it is a useful tool for delving deeper into a root cause analysis or Ishikawa diagram.
How is 5M+E a tool? you may ask.
It’s a framework that you can use to supplement other tools. For example, in an Ishikawa diagram, your categories of contributing factors within the diagram could be the Ms in 5M+E.
When brainstorming issues and potential solutions, you can think of each M one by one, grouping similar issues together. For example, issues like “high absenteeism” and “digital skills gaps” can be placed within the M that stands for “Manpower,” while issues like “equipment failures” and “replacement parts ordering” can be placed under M for “Machinery.”
There are 6 parts of the 5M+E model which contribute varying viewpoints towards problem-solving. The model to which we are referring is specific to the manufacturing industry.
There’s no right or wrong way to go about using 5M+E – it’s meant to be a holistic approach to identifying the broader environment of certain individual factors. After grouping factors of interest into their respective M categories, it’s easier to see which broader areas of production need improvements or tweaks.
Mankind involves the people who are working within the problem. In manufacturing, this includes shop floor and assembly workers, managers, shippers and distributors, customers, and anyone else who may contribute or be affected.
Machine refers to the machinery involved in the manufacturing process as well as the conditions of using machine elements. This includes wear and tear, possible breakdowns, and other physical limitations posed by the equipment.
Materials refers to the actual product being fed into the machinery and processed for sale or further use. It may range from raw materials to components to finished products sitting in inventory.
Method means the style of workflow in motion, whether driven by lean principles in a broad sense or type of production in a specific sense (such as batch or continuous flow production). Overall, it identifies the means by which value is added throughout the manufacturing process.
Measurement refers to the means of assessing success or acceptable quality in product or performance. In general this could be standard units of measurement like meters or pounds. In manufacturing in particular, this is expanded to include KPIs such as cycle time or other productivity metrics.
We prefer using “environment” rather than “mother nature” because it can intuitively also apply to the “environment” of the factory as well as the weather and climate conditions of the place of production. This includes factors like humidity, temperature, pressure, and other place issues like scheduling.
The 5M+E model has been around a long time, and so many people have adopted the method for different usage purposes. Therefore there are quite a few variations that differ depending on the industry or the type of problem-solving undertaken.
The key thing to remember is that while there may be small differences between models, all have approximately the same purpose and work equally well for root cause analysis.
Some of the variations of 5M+E are:
Essentially, since 5M+E is a guiding framework for brainstorming in root cause analysis, it doesn’t matter too much which version you use, as long as it is robust enough to cover the landscape of your production processes.