Continuous Improvement Demands Digital Investment
Is Continuous Improvement part of your business philosophy?
ASQ (American Society for Quality) offers this definition:
Continuous improvement, sometimes called continual improvement, is the ongoing improvement of products, services or processes through incremental and breakthrough improvements. These efforts can seek “incremental” improvement over time or “breakthrough” improvement all at once.
Continuous Improvement Strategies
There are many strategies to engage in continuous improvement. Popular methodologies include Six Sigma, Lean, Kaizen, 5 Why’s, and Total Quality Management. There are also a couple of acronym-driven methods: DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) and the PDCA (plan-do-check-act) cycle, also known as the Deming Cycle or Shewhart Cycle. Here’s how PDCA breaks down:
- Plan: Identify an opportunity and plan for change.
- Do: Implement the change on a small scale.
- Check: Use data to analyze the results of the change and determine whether it made a difference.
- Act: If the change was successful, implement it on a wider scale and continuously assess your results. If the change did not work, begin the cycle again.
Once again, data plays a huge role in the process. Data is the oracle: it reveals where the problems and the bottlenecks are, and it tells the story of success or failure when improvements are attempted.
Consider this data: 91% of respondents surveyed for the Annual Manufacturing Report 2019 agree that “data from connected machines and people will inform decision-making and reduce costs.” In fact, data is the chief driver of decision making in manufacturing today.
While data is universally valued in theory, many manufacturers are slow to embrace the digital investment required to harvest all that useful data.
Time for a Digital Overhaul?
Every continuous improvement project should be anticipating what an in-house digital overhaul would look like. Adopting improved digital technologies will be an increasing key to prospering in a competitive environment.
What are the barriers? It can be an expensive project. It’s also tempting to wait, because technology gets exponentially cheaper and better as years go by. However, waiting too long could potentially jeopardize a company. As competitors embrace this technology, they are harnessing tools which may radically improve their competitiveness. You need to keep up.
As your business pursues operation excellence and continuous improvement; as you seek to reduce wastage and cost, to improve quality and efficiency, to increase user satisfaction as well as employee contentment, think about how important the role of data is in continuous improvement. It may be time to make some investments in your digital data technology.