The PDCA cycle: Enhancing your industrial operations

As a factory manager, one of your main goals is to improve your operations, solve problems successfully, and increase efficiency. 

One of the most effective ways to do it is by using the PDCA cycle. 

Today we talk about what the PDCA cycle is, how it works, and why you should implement it in your factory.

What is the PDCA cycle?

The PDCA is a problem-solving method that consists of four simple steps: Plan, Do, Check, and Act.

This method was developed by Dr William Edwards Deming as a way of finding an explanation as to why some products or processes didn’t work the way they should.

The PDCA cycle quickly became a cornerstone of modern quality assurance, as well as an effective management practice.

This cycle is a versatile continuous improvement process that can be applied to different areas in the factory, from production to quality control, to management. 

It also works at any organisational level, from shopfloor to executive management.

How does the PDCA cycle work?

The PDCA cycle is quick and easy to implement, as it consists of four simple steps:

Plan

The first thing you need to do when implementing the PDCA cycle is to plan.

In this stage, you define the problem, set targets, and develop a plan to hit those targets. 

Before you get started with the planning, you need to gather data and analyse the situation. You can do this by speaking to workers or reviewing historical performance data.

After you gathered and analysed the relevant data, you’ll have a clear understanding of the problem you’re dealing with, and how it affects the current state of operations. Now is the time to set goals.

A key tip is that, for the PDCA cycle to work, you need to set SMART goals — Specific, Measurable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.

At this point, all that’s left to do is plan how to reach your SMART goals. You can do this by identifying the resources you’ll need, assigning responsibilities, and creating a timeline to implement your plan.

Do

After the planning phase is over, you need to roll up your sleeves and get ready to do things.

These things you need to do are essentially implementing the plan you just developed in the planning phase.

At this point, a key thing to do is to make sure you have all the necessary resources right where you need them, and that everybody is briefed on the situation and trained to deal with it

In this stage, you should monitor the progress you make, and take note of any tweaks you need to make along the way.

Check

After the doing phase, it’s time to check and make sure our actions are actually working.

For this, you need to measure and evaluate the results of your plan to decide whether it was successful or not.

To do this, it’s fundamental to collect data and analyse it against the goals you set during the planning phase. To do this effectively, you can take a look at relevant performance metrics, talk to the workers involved, or compare your results to industry benchmarks.

Once you finish your evaluation, you’ll be able to tell if your plan was successful or if it needs some improvement in specific areas.

Act

The last stage of the PDCA cycle is all about taking action.

Once you planned, developed, implemented, and checked your results, you need to take the right measures —or actions— to improve your process based on the results you got from your analysis.

If you implemented a successful plan, you can set it as a new standard operating procedure.

If you implemented a plan that needed improvement, you can identify the root cause of the problem and develop solutions to deal with it.

Something to keep in mind is that the PDCA cycle is a continuous improvement process, meaning that once you complete a cycle, you can start another to deal with a new problem or area of improvement.

Main advantages of using the PDCA cycle

The PDCA cycle is a robust problem-solving technique with continuous improvement at its heart.

It’s no wonder that it brings your factory several benefits, such as:

Improved efficiency — When your managers identify and deal with inefficiencies in their operations, efficiency and productivity go up. Managers can also streamline processes and reduce waste by continuously evaluating and refining their operations.

Increased quality As you well know, quality control is a key aspect of any factory operation. By identifying and addressing quality issues early on, factory managers can improve both service and quality. At the same time, they can also ensure their products meet —and exceed!— customers’ expectations thanks to the continuous improvement nature of the PDCA. 

Better employee engagement The PDCA cycle works best when there’s input and feedback from all hierarchy levels. By involving employees in the problem-solving process, managers increase employee engagement, productivity, and job satisfaction.

Greater customer satisfaction Improvements in efficiency and quality will always lead to greater customer satisfaction. Managers can ensure that customers get high-quality products and services consistently just by continually improving their processes. 

Continuous improvement The PDCA cycle is a continuous process that encourages managers to continually evaluate and improve their operations. This focus on continuous improvement leads to long-term, consistent, and stable success.

mlean® and the PDCA cycle

When it comes to problem-solving, the PDCA cycle is undoubtedly one of the best techniques you can use.

Not only it improves operations and increases efficiency, but it also helps you identify and address problems quickly and efficiently.

However, implementing the PDCA cycle in your factory without the right tools won’t bring you the results you expect.

That’s where we come in. Our mlean® Production System (mPS) is the most complete, comprehensive, and flexible solution in the market to connect, monitor, and manage your factory from a single dashboard.

Our software unifies your tech stack and optimises your processes in a way that works for you and your factory.

Don’t take our word for it, though. Take our clients’.

And ultimately, take a look for yourself, and see what you think!

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