Are you looking to implement a continuous improvement model? In this post, we are going to launch a guide that will help you understand what continuous improvement is and why it is important, as well as the methodologies used for it and all the associated tools.
What is continuous improvement
Continuous Improvement is all the activities created for the search, analysis, and resolution of inefficiencies, involving the people in an organization. Ensuring survival in any organization, which means profitability and competitiveness of companies, is the priority of continuous improvement.
The activities of analysis and continuous search for inefficiencies must be integrated at all levels of an organization and can be both daily and planned. Continuous Improvement is therefore a cultural issue, a state-of-mind of all the actors in continuous evolution (incremental improvement), it is a way of thinking that everything can evolve for the better.
It could also be said that it is a state of global dissatisfaction with what is established to identify improvement opportunities. From the moment we go to work, we can already think about doing things differently. Continuous Improvement, therefore, can never be a ¨trendy¨ matter, companies, in general, are risking their survival every day, therefore continuous improvement must be their main ally.
Why continuous improvement is important
The main reason for having a continuous improvement model is precisely the need for companies to be profitable and competitive over time. In other words, necessary to guarantee survival in the short, medium, and long term. Unfortunately, even in this century, many Continuous Improvement models implemented in many organizations serve only to demonstrate being fashionable or to justify ISO-type certifications or audits with clients.
Synchronization in quality, cost, delivery, and safety with customers is becoming more and more demanding. Increasingly complex and automated manufacturing processes and supply chains make the identification of waste, problems, production losses, improvement opportunities, etc… extremely complicated. However, companies are based on large mountains of “Gold” (Gold as the sum of all waste and Non-Value added activities for which the customer would not be willing to pay). A Continuous Improvement model is essential to help us in this task.
Continuous improvement methodologies
There are many methodologies for the implementation of a Continuous Improvement model (Lean Manufacturing, Six Sigma, TQM, WCM or even proprietary models that companies have created for themselves). There are neither better nor worse, each company must select one or several, but the key point is to embrace it.
All of them are based on what Deming formulated back in the 50s: the Deming cycle (PDCA). You must plan activities (Plan), execute them (Do), measure and analyze results (Check) and act and correct accordingly (Act). An endless circle.
In any case, the methodology is not important. What is important is the implementation strategy in any organization. To ensure success in the implementation of a Continuous Improvement system, the following “Key Points” must be ensured:
- Leadership: We need leaders capable of knowing where they want to take their organization with their entire work team.
- Continuous Improvement and Excellence Model: Have a Continuous Improvement Model to rely on and compare over time and that guides us on the path to Excellence.
- Diagnosis: Being able to diagnose the current situation regarding where we are and where we want to go in the medium, short, or long term
- Orientation to results: Involve all members of the organization through the objectives deployed
Leadership and objectives deployment
It is necessary to ensure that the entire Management is very clear about the “Vision” of the company. Where do we want to go with agreed and shared objectives, involving all staff!. For this we need a leadership team that gets everyone motivated. If you want to learn more about leadership, read our post about leadership and continuous improvement.
And everything will start from a good SWOT strategic diagnosis, identifying our internal Strengths and Weaknesses and external Opportunities and Threats.
Continuous Improvement model availability
There are different Continuous Improvement Models on which to rely, as we have indicated previously. Personally, I have always opted for the Toyota model (Toyota Production System), which integrates all the principles of Lean Manufacturing and is valid for any type of industry.
This Model will allow me to define the Areas in which we will evaluate our organization. Traditionally we have defined the following:
- Team work
- Safety & Environment
- Quality Management
- Standard Operation
- HR Development
- Work Allocation
- Facility Management
- Cost Management
Each of these areas, in the Continuous Improvement Model, will have different tools that will allow me to advance in my degree of maturity, which we will talk about later in our blog.
We have an agreed Vision and a Continuous Improvement and/or Excellence Model that will guide us along the way. For each evaluated area, we will identify the existing deviations between where the organization is today and where it wants to be in the future, this is through quantitative and qualitative evaluations that indicate the degree of excellence in each of the areas. (We will be able to define our own set of criteria, as stable as possible over time, which will allow us to identify the situation in which we find ourselves in each diagnosis).
Based on the diagnose results, we will define the priorities and turn them into specific objectives for the entire organization. We will have transformed the deviations identified into specific problems and challenges for the organization (Improvement Projects). The path to Excellence. From here, the PDCA wheel will turn robustly towards where we want to go, applying the different improvement and problem-solving tools. With full guarantee, not without suffering and pain. Without forgetting that the Hoshin Kanri will help us manage our strategic PDCA. We will cover this in another post.
What is the best tool for continuous improvement
There is neither a better nor a worse tool for continuous improvement. Each tool must be applied at the time it is necessary… Therefore, we believe that more important than the tools, is the cultural aspect in the involvement of all staff, as well as the commitment to Continuous Improvement. For this reason, a good model is worth nothing without better Leadership Management and coaching.
Request a demo
Our mlean Production System is a great tool to implement continuous improvement models. If you want to learn more about it and it can help you, don’t hesitate and request a demo so we can show you how we can help in making your organization more efficient and profitable.