One of the main goals of a company should always be to improve its performance day by day and offer the best products with the best value for money. That is the objective pursued by the concept of continuous improvement, more than a strategy, a reason for being, and an inescapable obligation for any company.
Continuous improvement: what is it?
The origin of continuous improvement comes from the Japanese philosophy of the Kaizen method; which is based on the norm of delivering results superior to those of the previous day. It is common progress that has allowed the renewal of products, services, and processes in the country of the rising sun and the rest of the world.
Continuous improvement focuses on eliminating waste (unnecessary activities and/or materials) and operations that do not add value to the product or processes. It, more than a strategy, is a reason for being and an inescapable obligation for any company.
Basically, this covers a lot of things, but in general, business optimisation is the most important point in continuous improvement.
Continuous improvement, therefore, is the set of actions aimed at obtaining the highest possible quality of the products, services, and processes of a company.
Most large companies have a department dedicated exclusively to continually improving their manufacturing or internal processes. This translates into cost and time reduction, two basic factors in any continuous improvement strategy that pursues the growth of an organization.
The result of applying continuous improvement processes will be an improved product or service that is more competitive and responds much better to customer demands. Hence, we understand continuous improvement as a management model that is permanent and sustainable over time, which will allow the organization to eliminate operations that do not add value to its processes.
It is a work methodology that is based on people and the use of Indicators: working as a team to achieve the established objectives. And it is the teams themselves that solve the “problems” through Lean tools, developing standards, and pursuing continuous improvement.
Most common mistakes in a continuous improvement process
On many occasions, this process management and continuous improvement focus does not come to fruition because people tend to make mistakes. As much as we are determined to improve our company, there are times when we do not achieve our goal and it is important to reduce this type of situation. What are the most common mistakes?
Have too many expectations
Whenever we get down to work and try to carry out a process of this type, we tend to have a large number of expectations that are sometimes excessive.
That is to say, we tend to speculate on the results that we can obtain in an unrealistic way. For example, many entities believe that these positive results will come very quickly, but in reality, the opposite occurs. It is a medium / long-term process, so we will not achieve much in a short period of time. The usual thing is that the results are cumulative and gradually occur until the objective set is reached.
Not understanding automated processes
The tendency is to believe that automated processes are those that attempt to replace the tasks performed by a person with other fully automated tasks. Although this idea is not entirely wrong, it must be borne in mind that process automation goes much further and focuses on multiple features. This is the case of the integration of the system itself or the collection of indicators that offer us information on performance in real-time.
For a business to continuously improve, in addition to creating a model and analyzing the process, it is important to emphasize its improvement and redesign so that we can obtain information on whether all these processes have been properly optimized.
Based on specific objectives
An improvement process is much more effective if it is carried out to solve different problems. In other words, a company must understand that the production chain is a whole. In the event that we want to make use of this improvement process on an isolated event, the usual thing is that we do not obtain the best results.
This is because continuous improvement encompasses a series of steps, procedures, processes, and optimizations, always taking into account the productivity and efficiency of the organization.
Not giving enough support to the implementation
Management by processes and continuous improvement needs to be viewed as a priority aspect in the business that receives the maximum support and all the necessary resources. You cannot hope, as said before, that the process will be completed in a short time and, on top of that, do it without making an investment consistent with the results you are hoping to obtain.
Finally, continuous improvement in a company should be considered as an obligation and a permanent habit among all staff. All people like change and they like consistency so have making continuous improvement a key objective means there will be positive changes, but until those changes are made consistency will remain.
Improving a business by creating a better workplace for all employees leads to a return with their ideas being contributed to improve the business. Considering that employees are the ones carrying work on the ‘coal face’ it is wise to ask for their ideas and suggestions because they are the ones who recognize the need for them, more so than management.
Another mechanism to identify areas of improvement are found by thoughtful measurement of all process carried out by each employee. By identifying the differences in figures opportunities can easily be found. Figures are an excellent source of finding opportunities however an expert on KPIs and understanding what to measure in processes in business operations and how to interpret the figures may be required such as an experienced business mentor.
It is important to carry it out to achieve a level of maximum quality and excellence; that differentiates the company from the competition.
Hopefully, this short article can explain how companies must behave dynamically to stay competitive.
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