Continuous improvement. How to implement it in your company?
All companies tend to want to improve their processes in order to be increasingly competitive in the market. To do this, it is not necessary to make a resounding change in procedures, but small changes applied with the continuous improvement process can make your organization increase its quality and productivity. Next, we are going to tell you how to implement it in your company.
What is continuous improvement?
Continuous improvement is a methodology which purpose is eliminating activities that do not add value in the production chain. It is the constant execution of actions that improve organizational processes, minimizing the margin of error and losses.
It is a method that requires continuity: a process is improved, analyzed and studied, and an attempt is made to improve again. Continuous improvement is a cyclical process. It is a tool with great potential to improve business productivity.
It is based on an ancient philosophy called Kaizen. It means that if we want to achieve sustainable changes over time, we must make radical changes in the short term. It is based on making small improvements every day that will lead you to the goal you are looking for.
This philosophy has a great advantage, since many times we can feel overwhelmed by making big changes. Applying this methodology, we will carry out small actions continuously, which will become habits, achieving great results.
These small actions are reflected in the quality increase of the service, products and processes.
- Products and services: the manufactured products and services offered respond more to customer requirements, and therefore increase sales and consumer satisfaction.
- Processes: cost savings are produced, as workflows become more efficient.
History of the concept of continuous improvement
The concept of continuous improvement is like the Japanese method called Kaizen. In fact, it arises from the latter method. The Kaizen method is fully related to Japanese culture, it means “improvement” in their language.
In the 1950s, there was a desire for continuous improvement that led to a nation’s working method, where a work system was developed based on the teachings of quality management expert William Edward Deming.
The Kaizen method was implemented in the Toyota company, and from this industry it spread throughout the world.
Today, continuous improvement is built into most companies. Any organization that has a quality management system certified by the ISO 9001 standard must work based on a continuous improvement process, since this international standard requires its employment in all areas of the organization.
If you want to know more about ISO standards, you can read our article What are ISO standards and what are they for?
How to apply continuous improvement?
Continuous improvement is a philosophy that always implies seeking to progress. But… how can we apply it?
There are tools that help us organize work procedures to guide them towards continuous improvement, such as the PDCA.
Also known as the Deming circle, the PDCA cycle is a widely used tool to implement the continuous improvement system. It focuses on permanent self-assessment over time.
The acronym PDCA refers to the words “plan”, “do”, “check”, “act”. It is a cyclical process of 4 stages, when the last stage is finished, you must return to the first one and start again. Below we’ll describe each of the stages that will guide you in the process of applying continuous improvement in your organization.
This stage is based on understanding the problem and defining the purposes. It is very important to have a multidisciplinary work team to analyze the problem comprehensively.
It consists of implementing the previously defined plan. It is essential to follow the planning by establishing responsible parties and deadlines.
At this stage, it is necessary to analyze whether the results obtained coincide with what was expected according to the planning.
If the problem is not solved, a new planning must be carried out.
When we are sure that the goals were achieved correctly, the improvement must be formally established. This way, it can be carried out to other areas. At this stage we make sure that the cycle continues to start, it can always be improved and we must never stop trying to find solutions for the optimization of processes.
Digital tools such as Full Audits allow you to carry out this cycle, since you can have the incidents integrated into the system. You will be able to run the audit, identify errors, report them, create incidents, work on the errors, solve them and perform the control audit again.
In this way, it is possible to identify points that must be maintained and determine the points that must be corrected. Try our free demo and start applying continuous improvement in your organization.