“Strive for continuous improvement, instead of perfection.” – Kim Collins
And continuous Improvements requires organizations to implement changes often.
We will firstly understand the term Continuous Improvements before discussing the tools and techniques that are useful for it.
A Brief Introduction to Continuous Improvements
Continual improvement refers to creating products, services, and processes incrementally or in a way that is a breakthrough from one generation to the next. For Continuous Improvement, there are several techniques, and within the same company, many different approaches are employed, as different approaches are better suited to specific uses.
Through CI Processes, companies are continually improving the quality of their products, services, or processes.
What are the Objectives of Continuous Improvements?
Continuous Improvements basically aim for:
- Increasing employee engagement and collaboration
- Process tracking and systematization
- Minimizing variation
- Reducing defect rates
- Speeding up cycle times
What Drives Continuous Improvements?
There are numerous sources that can trigger the CI processes in any organization, including:
- Regular Audits
- Changing Compliance Requirements
- Growing Customer Expectations
- Customer Complaints
- Document Changes
- Technological Upgrades, and much more.
What are the Benefits of CI Processes?
Previously, we discussed Continuous Improvement’s objectives, so let’s explore the reasons and how the right processes can lead to exponential productivity gains. Over time you will add substantial value to your services or products if you have a process in place. Continuous improvement processes offer the following benefits:
1. Consistency and Iteration
Consistency and iteration are the most significant benefits of continuous improvement. Innovative approaches, such as iterative approaches, are beneficial for supporting rapid changes. In an iterative process, discovering risks and problems is more effortless. In addition, learning occurs when you iterate, so you’ll continually improve.
2. Better flexibility
An organization’s improvement process provides flexibility. For example, innovative companies, such as Tesla, Google, or Haier, are always conscious of their environmental impact. Thus, they can adapt quickly and stay ahead.
As a paradox, flexibility brings stability. Stability is critical in ever-changing markets. It’s easy to get messy without a steady base. On the other hand, flexible organizations are highly resilient and stable in crises and rapid change. You’re usually fragile if you’re not agile.
3. Better-quality products
In any continuous improvement process, identifying opportunities for improvement is one of the critical objectives. It improves planning and reduces defect rates. Gradual improvement leads to significantly improved quality over time.
4. Greater productivity and efficiency
Establishing a process is also a great way to improve productivity. It eliminates redundant work, reduces errors, and raises efficiency.
5. Cost Savings
It might not be easy to reduce costs. Continual improvement, however, comes with the added benefit of pointing out inefficiencies that you can eliminate. For example, it might be possible to automate redundant tasks, to ensure accuracy or consistency in work, and so forth.
6. Waste Reduction
Continual improvement processes focus on preventing and removing waste to maximize efficiency. Different companies might have additional waste to eliminate. Materials, labor, vast surpluses, and other resources that are not valuable to your company are most frequently targeted.
So, what’s the best way to achieve Continuous Improvements?
The Deming Cycle is among the most common approaches to Continuous Improvement (of quality) in Lean manufacturing. There are other names for the process, such as Deming Wheel, Shewhart Cycle, and Continuous Improvement Spiral. Typically, the Deming Cycle involves four steps that are carried out repeatedly to achieve continuous improvement. These are PLAN, DO, CHECK (STUDY), and ACT.
Walter A. Shewhart introduced the idea of Plan, Do and See in the 1920s. Deming modified Shewhart’s cycle into PLAN, DO, CHECK, and ACT. Deming cycles are like Kaizen thinking and Just-in-Time (JIT) manufacturing. PDCA illustrates theory-experiment-evaluation-do-check (like Bacon’s Scientific Method).
PDCA also comes in another version called OPDCA. This new “O” stands for observation, which also relates to grasping the current condition. There is a strong emphasis on observation and the current state throughout the literature on Lean manufacturing/Toyota Production System, making sense when you take the whole picture into account.
Deming Cycles offer numerous benefits across a wide range of corporate functions. These include:
- Managing daily routines for individuals and teams
- Identifying and solving problems
- Planning and management
- Continuous improvement
- Supplier Management
- Management of human resources
- Development of new products
- Testing new processes
PDCA Cycle: The Four Phases
PDCA cycle is a systematic way of solving problems and implementing solutions. Let us take a closer look at each stage:
Start by identifying and understanding the opportunity or problem you are facing. For example, possibly your marketing campaign should improve efficiency, or perhaps your finished product isn’t reaching the exemplary standards. First, invest time in reviewing the available information. Then, develop a solid implementation plan by generating and screening ideas.
As much as possible, be specific with your success criteria. They will be addressed further in the Check phase.
A small-scale pilot project is a safe way to test a potential solution. Taking this approach will allow you to determine whether your proposed changes achieve the desired result – and if they don’t, how little disruption will they cause. For example, you could conduct a trial within a department, a limited geographic region, or even within a specific demographic.
Gather data on the success of the pilot project. In the next stage, you’ll need it.
To determine whether your idea was successful in Step 1, examine the results of your pilot project with what you expected in Step 1.
If it is successful, proceed to Step 4. Otherwise, proceed to Step 1.
The Do and Check phases can be repeated after making more changes. But if you fail, go back to Step 1.
Implementing your solution takes place here. However, remember that PDCA/PDSA is a loop rather than a discrete process. The improved process or product becomes the new standard, but you are always looking for ways to improve it.
When to Use a PDCA Cycle?
All types of organizations can benefit from a PDCA/PDSA framework. You can use it to improve any process or product by dividing it into smaller steps or phases and then figuring out how to improve each.
Specifically, it can set you up for success in implementing Total Quality Management and Six Sigma initiatives. However, PDCA/PDSA cycles can take considerably longer to complete than a gung-ho, straightforward implementation.
It is not suitable for a problem that needs immediate attention might not suit this method. In addition, it requires significant buy-in from team members and often does not provide the opportunity for radical innovation – What your organization needs.
In addition to driving continuous improvements, you must implement the PDCA cycle whenever:
- Implementing a new improvement project
- Improving the design of a process, product, or service
- Determining a repetitive work process
- Collecting and analyzing data to verify and prioritize problems
- Implementing the change
Now that you know how helpful PDCA cycle is to continually improve, you should automate the cycle processes with the help of right quality management software.
One of the reliable eQMS Solutions you can pick is Qualityze EQMS Suite.
By integrating Qualityze Enterprise Quality Management Software Solution with your organization’s organizational culture, you can align all critical processes with quality objectives, compliance regulations, and customer needs. It will simplify the journey of change and continuous improvements for you and your team members.
To know more about Qualityze EQMS Suite and request a free demo, please contact our customer success team today on 1-877-207-8616 or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will be right there for you.