Mr Sakichi Toyoda is considered the founder of Japan’s industrial revolution. He invented the Toyoda loom, sold it to an English mill for 1 million yen and used the money to start the now-famous Toyota company.

Mr Toyoda once stated: “When you have a problem you should ask ‘why’ five times to find the source of the problem and also prevent the problem from recurring.”

To try and solve a problem in the warehouse, sometimes asking “why” might not be enough, as it would not lead you to the bottom of the problem.

Most times, one has to ask “why” more than once, in order to get a clearer understanding of the problem and move from the surface to the bottom of the problem.

Let me give you a simple but tangible example taken from the day-to-day activity in any warehouse environment:

A forklift driver reports to his warehouse manager that his forklift cannot start despite all his efforts.

The simple analysis

The One Why application: Problem - Answer - Response.

Problem: The forklift won’t start. Why?

answer: The battery is dead.

solution: Replace the battery. 

The detailed analysis

Now, let’s look at the same problem by applying the Five Whys in the table.

Problem      My forklift won't start                                        Why

Answer 1

The Battery is dead.


Answer 2

The alternator was not charging the battery
when I last drove it.


Answer 3

The alternator belt was broken.


Answer 4

Because I failed to maintain the forklift.


Answer 5

I was not committed to following the scheduled forklift maintenance programme.


Do you see how this Five-Whys application could help the warehouse business?

Do you also see how the above example can help or improve your own business activities by dissecting the problem to its core elements until you arrive at the bottom of it?

Most importantly, it prevents the problem from occurring again.

Article by Petros N. Zenieris, the owner of The Business Criterion Consulting & Training Office. He is a management consultant and trainer with over 25 years’ accumulated experience from South-East Asia and West Africa. For more information, e-mail or visit