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The Ultimate Guide to Continuous Improvement: Eliminate Waste, Boost Efficiency and Enhance Quality in just 5 steps

continuous improvement
IoT / Smart Factory

The Ultimate Guide to Continuous Improvement: Eliminate Waste, Boost Efficiency and Enhance Quality in just 5 steps


In today’s day and age, manufacturers face cut-throat competition. Continuous improvement is no longer a choice but an imminent necessity to help your manufacturing business stay afloat. But, what exactly does continuous improvement entail in the manufacturing sector? How can your company initiate a journey using best practices and advanced technology to improve and optimize manufacturing processes?

Let us explore these questions in-depth!

The model of Continuous Improvement

Deeply rooted in the lean manufacturing movement, that grew out of the Toyota Production System (TPS), the model of continuous improvement deployed by most companies today emphasizes waste elimination.

Waste elimination across multiple categories can slowly revolutionize your manufacturing processes over time. According to TPS, there are three categories of waste

Muda

Muda is a class of waste that focuses on non-value-added work. Muda recognizes two distinct types of activities that don’t add value.

The first is part of the production process and impacts the end customer. It’s eliminated if it adds no value to the production process or the customer.

If it adds value to the end customer, such as safety checks, then it’s allowed.

The second type is referred to as the Seven Wastes and includes:

  • Excess Transport
  • Extra Inventory
  • Unnecessary Motion
  • Waiting
  • Overproduction
  • Over-processing
  • Defects

Mura

While Muda focuses on process waste, Mura is centered on capacity issues. It means “unevenness” and can trigger the Seven Wastes listed in Muda.

Therefore, one comes from the other, compounding the impact of the waste in question.

One example would be a midstream process that requires slower processing due to the performance characteristics of the material used. 

In this case, upstream processes bottleneck and cause excess transport while downstream production processes starve for the material.

Some industries can address this by using Just-in-Time or Kanban systems to create a pull throughput rather than a push strategy. The goal is to level the work so the production flow evens out.

Muri

Muri focuses on the overburden in the labor aspect of production. While high production rates are every manufacturer’s goal, pushing workers or equipment past their optimum or 100% capacity isn’t sustainable. 

It leads to employee issues such as morale, absenteeism, and equipment failure. Lean manufacturing methodology uses standardized work to design and implement sustainable work processes without overburdening people and equipment.

Now that you have a fair idea regarding the key categories of waste, you can streamline your operations and produce products faster, better, and at cheaper prices.

A 5 step plan to introduce continuous improvement on your plant floor

1. Identify the overall objective – Be specific and clear

Begin with the current state and the scenario as it exists. Get a complete understanding of the existing culture and the resources available. 

Once you have established this current state, start working towards the end goal. 

Imagine what the future of the factory can be both in the worst and best-case scenarios. Address the key parameters mentioned below to create a progressive growth plan:

  • What are the KPIs or metrics and how does manufacturing performance compare now versus in the future state?
  • What kind of improvement is needed to achieve the established manufacturing goals?
  • What are the existing core competencies and leadership capabilities needed to empower this transition?
2. Define the continuous improvement process – Who owns what?

All manufacturing processes have owners who are entrusted with the responsibility to maintain, upgrade, and track those tasks that they own. Manufacturers need to get a checklist for these tasks:

  • Define who owns which part of continuous improvement on the factory floor?
  • Who owns continuous improvement for reduced cycle times on your plant floor?
  • How can one ensure that all employees are working on a continuous improvement plan?
3. Deploy tools and communicate effectively – Spread the word

Continuous improvement in manufacturing is usually not considered a natural phenomenon and manufacturers need to put in extra effort to enable employees to embark on this journey. 

They would need to educate them on the process and the benefits of continuous improvement using tools such as visual management, 5S, Kanban, etc.

Introducing these methodologies and tools in a systematic and focused manner will help nurture a gradual change throughout the organization.

4. Measure outcomes – Quantifiable results for sustained progress

The proof of a stable continuous improvement program lies in the final outcome. Positive outcomes are possible only when the plan is achievable and relevant.

It is imperative to quantify these outcomes to finally understand if the continuous improvement plan has worked or not.

These positive outcomes will then inspire the senior leadership to invest more resources to further enhance the reach of the program.

5. Harness the power of digital transformation – Make technology work for you

Continuous improvement in manufacturing becomes a lot more easy and meaningful when manufacturers take the digital route.

After all, AI-based continuous improvement programs have proven to be several times more effective than those which don’t use them.

Digitally enabled tools can monitor the performance of teams, evaluate their overall impact, and identify resources that matter the most in the organization.

Advanced technologies also give manufacturers instant access to real-time data and generate actionable insights, which lead to better business decisions and outcomes.

 Read More: How to transform your Shop Floor with Industrial IoT?

Embrace the future of continuous improvement with IoT

Industrial IoT solutions enable the autonomous collection, standardization, and contextualization of production data. This provides immediate insight into the performance of an operation, helping manufacturers develop accurate production baselines and identify critical opportunities for improvement.

With complete visibility, continuous improvement leaders can prioritize initiatives accurately and begin to roll out their model of process improvement.

The real-time data collected can also directly drive process optimization and automation by providing the information people and systems need to take action.

If you’re looking to partner with a leading-edge IoT app development company to supercharge your CI-based initiatives, look no further! Our custom IoT solutions will empower you to connect, manage and monitor your machines on the go, resulting in reduced costs and increased efficiency.

What are you waiting for then? Talk to us and find out how you can leverage IoT to drive growth for your business today!