Monthly Archives: October 2012

5 Ways to Take the Scary Out Of Continuous Process Improvement

5 Ways to Take the Scary Out Of Continuous Process Improvement

With Halloween here, we thought we’d take a look at something which inspires fear and dread in many manufacturing employees… the Continuous Improvement Committee.

In theory, “Continuous Process Improvement” offers a near Utopian vision of how business should work.  Rather than management dictating how business will improve, continuous process improvement utilizes the expertise, interest and strengths of employees to think about improvement, and then empowers the employees to make the improvements a reality.

The suggestion box has become the “go-to” tool for Continuous Improvement Committees.

But, all too often, reality is nowhere near the vision.  “Continuous Improvement Committees” may occasionally meet for lunch.  There might be a suggestion box in the lunchroom, and campaigns may lead to a lot of work and temporary improvements before, inevitably, slipping back to the status quo.  And, it has been shown “continuous improvement” may stifle innovation or worse.

Rather than give up and scrap all hope of “continuous improvement,” simply evaluating the process and making a few small changes could lead to the positive results many companies expect from the committees.  Here are a few common sense ideas for taking the pain out of continuous improvement so you can focus on the improvement:

1)      Create a steering committee that includes all branches of the company, including an advocate in management or the executive team.  You’ll need a voice with management to coordinate your improvement activities.

2)      Determine the ROI as you are planning improvements.  It’s not enough to ask people to “improve” for the sake of improvement.  There should be a clear benefit. Identifying the ROI will also help as you evaluate results and provide measurable benchmarks in the process.

3)      Structure the plan around phases.  Many times, continuous improvement projects fall victim to lofty goals that introduce more change and complexity than necessary.  Making small improvements in controlled phases with a measured result and ROI will build support for future improvements.  Historical evidence has shown smaller phases allow the opportunity to make adjustments, leading to greater project success.

4)      Keep in mind the idea of “controlled” phases as you plan.  Look at the project and identify who or what is driving the changes.  Maintaining control during each phase helps ensure the ROI continues to be the focus of the project.

5)      As you plan improvements, think about sustainability.  Implementing an improvement is only half the project.  The other half is ensuring the improvement is one that will last after the campaign is over.  Many times it is necessary to implement “process enforcement” to ensure sustainability.

Take the fear out of continuous improvement and make a positive change today.

Honestly, the suggestions here aren’t groundbreaking, but they’re not meant to be. Our goal is to take the fear out of continuous improvement. These concepts can be applied to any improvement project, including the move to paperless manufacturing on the shop floor.  We designed our paperless manufacturing around simple, controlled phases that ensure an ROI for each phase and gives control of the project to our customers.  Our software has been designed to minimize training and ensure sustainable process improvements for manufacturing.  It’s how we can promise paper off the shop floor in less than 30 days.

So what success (or failure) have you had with Continuous Process Improvement?  How can you ensure improvements are sustainable?  The truth is, continuous improvement isn’t scary, but not doing anything to improve your business might be.  Send us a message if you’d like to learn more.  We’d love to hear from you!

Next week, we’re going to take a look at that moment when you realize something isn’t working and it’s time for change.  See you then!