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Continuous Process Improvement

Process improvement or Kaizen as the Japanese refer to it, is the continual improvement of efficiency, performance, competitive advantage and utilization of plant, equipment, labor, knowledge, planning, inventory, production processes and tasks by drawing on knowledge resources within the business and the use of lean manufacturing principles and operations management concepts to continually improve the value stream and its components. Process improvement theory and problem solving framework is based on the use of the PDCA cycle (Plan, Do, Check, Act) cycle which was advocated by Dr W Deming, the American quality guru. Process improvement is a continual process, which should involve everyone at all levels of the organization to become an inherent component of company culture.Process improvement initiatives can be structured and supported by operations or lean consultants.

Motivation and Implementation for Continuous Improvement

Most businesses and operations will have some level of continuous improvement initiatives and quality culture in place, but it's the level of motivation among staff and support from management that will ultimately determine the amount of value these add to the business.
Continuous improvement initiatives are usually started and driven by management who form or are part of a Lean team lead by a lean champion to improve production efficiencies, lower production costs, increase operating profits and achieve a more consistent quality level. These motivating factors must also be aligned to employee's motivation to succeed in these areas for any improvement activity to be successful. Performance based pay, employee involvement and initiative leadership with the appropriate time and resources to achieve set objectives are ways for employees to successfully contribute and sustain continuous improvement activities.

More on lean manufacturing and process improvement teams

Continuous Process Improvement tools

There are many tools and concepts which can be used in continuous process improvement. These vary in application and use from data collection, analysis to execution of improvement initiatives and tasks. There is no right or wrong ways of performing continuous improvement activities, the methods, framework, and tools used will depend on each individual operation and business including its continuous improvement culture.

When embarking on the continuous improvement journey it is important to have a process improvement strategy.

Some of these tools and concepts are listed below:

-Production data collection
-Failure and downtime sheets
-SWOT analysis and its use in strategy.
-Performance and pareto charts
-Andon Systems
-Lean manufacturing education and training
-Flow Charts
-Process diagram
-Value Stream map
-Root cause analysis
-Problem solving analysis such as:Fishbone diagrams and 5 whys
-Failure mode and effect analysis (FMEA)
-Plan Do Check Act
-Continuous improvement board
-Production start Checklists
-Kanban Systems
-Process and quality Checklists

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