As an organization focused on continuous improvement, we believe it can be something tackled at every level of the company from line operators to CEO. Often the best improvement ideas come from an “aha moment” from a team member as they go about their daily routine.
Earlier this month Dave Hall, V.P. of Manufacturing at Post Glover Resistors shared an article in Industry Week outlining four areas of focus to make continuous improvement something anyone at any level of your organization can easily understand. We all can get caught up in industry buzz of terms like Six Sigma and Lean Manufacturing, as well as acronyms – QMS, MES, ISO and GMP, but it really just boils down to moving the needle and making improvements that make processes easier, better, faster or more cost effective, without sacrificing quality or safety.
Theory of Constraints. Quick Response Manufacturing. Six Sigma. Lean. Total Productive Maintenance. Total Quality Management. The lexicon, tools and methods around improving manufacturing these days seems to be endless.
We, being the continuous improvement community, make it more complicated than it really needs to be sometimes to the point of confusing and frustrating those very people we are trying to help. Don’t get me wrong, I have used each of the methods listed above in some application as they have their place in my manufacturing heart. But it is our job to make this concept of continuous improvement easy and fun, not complicated and by the book.
By making a process or job easier for the operator it typically results in less time and therefore less cost for the company.
But easier can also be in terms of the health and safety burden it puts on the operator. Easier is one that has countless benefits: It makes the product better because the operator is less tired and can focus better at their task; easier means the operator can get more done in the same amount of time — all of which helps to make the product cheaper.
Every company should always be looking for ways to make their products better. This can come from changing a component or material, adding features, or simply improving an assembly process. Sometimes companies struggle with this one because on the surface it almost always results in raising costs. Be sure to always consider defects and breakdowns when looking to make the product better. It may result in adding dimes to the COGS but save dollars on the service and warranty. When looking to make the product better for the customer, one also needs to be careful. Don’t make a Bentley when all that is needed is a Toyota. Always keep the customers’ expectations in mind.
Explore the rest of the four areas of focus more in-depth here.