How to achieve continuous improvement in manufacturing

Lean Pain Points Safety
4 mins read

While efficiency has always been a top consideration for manufacturing companies, it is no longer optional. It is a must for business sustainability. The ripple effects of the pandemic have made it harder to achieve a profit. Consumer demand is fluctuating, supply chain issues still persist, and raw material prices are on the rise. While external factors cannot be controlled, manufacturers can optimize their internal processes. They can become more resilient and responsive by fine-tuning how they operate. This requires continuous improvement – implementing sustainable methods that make improvement initiatives not just a quarterly activity but rather an everyday part of your business.

Understanding the principles of continuous improvement

Continuous improvement models are behind many process management systems used by organizations, including lean production and Lean Six Sigma. This is also referred to as Kaizen, which in Japanese translates to good improvement. Businesses worldwide implement Kaizen as a pillar of their long-term competitive strategy. It can also be a highly beneficial manufacturing process improvement methodology.

As per the Kaizen Institute, continuous improvement is made up of five fundamental principles. Here’s what manufacturers should know about them:

  1. Know your customer: Manufacturers should be aware of the demands of the customers for whom they are making the product, so they know exactly where they are creating value.
  2. Let it flow: Aim to create as little waste as possible so resources are used effectively during production.
  3. Go to GEMBA: GEMBA is a Japanese term that means “the actual place”. Executives should be aware of what’s happening at the place where manufacturing is actually done—the production floor. This is what’s behind the concept of a GEMBA walk, where executives visit the floor, see how operations are carried out, and talk to the workers.
  4. Empower people: Teams should be organized in a way that supports continuous improvement in a manufacturing organization. The goals of all teams should align and not clash with each other, so everyone can work together to achieve more. Employees should also be equipped with the tools and systems they need to reach these goals.
  5. Be transparent: Transparency here refers to data transparency. Through performance tracking, it is easy to see the tangible results of any changes being implemented, which proves their value and can also be a motivating factor.

Adopting continuous improvement might sound intensive upfront, but it pays off over time. Today, with the assistance of digital solutions, implementing continuous improvement across the organization and scaling it as you grow is easier than ever.

 

How to adopt continuous improvement initiatives

Continuous improvement initiatives are implemented by organizations by establishing methods that can be effectively used by employees at all levels. Here is how manufacturers can adopt them.

  1. Define specific objectives

Start by evaluating all the areas of your organization to identify your target areas for improvement.
Some questions you can ask to identify these include:

– Which areas are currently undergoing change?

– What are the areas where bottlenecks or delays occur?

– What are the areas that don’t meet quality or performance expectations?

– Which areas have the most market or financial impact?

After identifying the areas, define your objectives for improvement within the specific areas. For example, reducing lead time, improving quality, or reducing downtime. With the objectives in place, define the key performance indicators (KPIs) you will be using to measure progress towards the objective.

  1. Define the continuous improvement process 

While defining the continuous improvement process, workers from all levels should be involved so everyone’s perspectives are incorporated. At this stage, the responsibilities of the continuous improvement processes should also be placed on specific people who can actively maintain and manage them.

  1. Communicate your initiative clearly 

To enable the culture of continuous improvement, manufacturers first have to communicate it to all employees to encourage its adoption. Employees should be aware of what continuous improvement is in manufacturing and how it can help. They have to be trained in the methods and tools to carry out the continuous improvement processes. This can also empower employees to make their own suggestions for improvement. These training sessions should be frequent to reinforce the principles within the organization.

  1. Measure the outcomes of your initiatives 

Continuous improvement is all about results. After implementing changes, they have to be assessed after a sufficiently long interval to judge whether the improvement initiative has been successful or not. If not, it has to be adapted. If it has been successful, it still requires follow-up to ensure that the changes are sustained and permanently incorporated.

Digital tools can make continuous improvement more convenient to adopt for manufacturers, as they can automate some steps such as tracking and reporting. They also make it possible to make decisions based on real-time data, including data from the manufacturing processes, so any urgent actions can be taken right away.

EviView is custom-built for companies that want to make continuous improvement integral to the manufacturing process. With EviView, your organization can: 

  1. Track various KPI metrics through trackers relevant to your objectives 
  2. Integrate with existing systems that are already collecting data to present all the relevant information in an easily accessible place
  3. Generate reports that can help you analyze how the implemented initiatives have performed


Once implemented, you can expect to see significant results over time. Through our tool, our award-winning team has already helped several manufacturers reduce delays by up to 20% and achieve productivity gains of 5–10%. We also hold training sessions so all employees can be comfortable using the tool and continuous improvement can be effectively achieved. Our tool has been especially useful for process industries, such as helping companies with their pharmaceutical batch manufacturing.

Get in touch with us for a demo and discover how we can help your organization make improvements that amount to a number of extra days of manufacturing per year.

Written By: Karol Dabrowski

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