The Essence of Continuous Improvement
October 2, 2008Buzz words and acronyms seem to rule our day-to-day activities in the workplace. "FMEA", "Control Plans", and "APQP" are heavy hitters when it comes to supplying quality parts in competitive markets. On top of already busy schedules, customers are expecting "Continuous Improvement" in how their parts are delivered. With proper planning, meeting your customers' requirements and improving your processes while increasing revenue is quite simple.
Defining the Scope
It is essential to define the scope of the improvement focus before any planning can begin. A good place to start is determining your role in your company. Are you in a position to lead a larger group? Or would you be taking on a project on your own?
Next, identify key areas of a process or product which you (or your group) would be empowered to improve. Often using the Pareto Analysis Charts from your design FMEA or process FMEA is helpful in this process. The QA Assistant™ software provides a variety of Pareto views to facilitate this process.
Before selecting your target area for improvement, it is important to determine the amount of time and resources available to compelete the task. With this information, you are now ready to select an area on which to focus your efforts and metrics which will help you evaluate your success.
Planning and Delivering
Develop your plan for meeting your target. Ensure the plan is aggressive enough to keep interest and awareness in the improvement process; but also realistic to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
It is a good idea to set checkpoints at the beginning of a project or improvement plan to help your teammates plan their schedules and provide additional metric to measure your success along the way. A Gantt Chart or timeline will help to graphically map your progress. Our Assistant Studio™ software also provides these tools as standard.
Also, keep in mind that your plan and timeline may need to be flexible depending on the urgency of the improvement methods.
Should a continuous improvement project ever be considered complete? It is recommended to follow up to ensure the improvement techniques are still in place as necessary. It is also good practice to congratulate the team.
Finally, select a new area to target...and repeat the above methodology -- thus, continuously improving your process!
QA Assistant™ Continuous Improvement
QA Assistant™ is focussed on delivering excellence in our products. We believe that through continuous improvement, we will be able to help our customers "meet the demands of their dynamic markets" (QA Assistant™ Director of Engineering). QA Assistant™ continuously invests in the planning, developing, and testing of the next generation of our high-quality products. Over the next 6 months QA Assistant™ has scheduled 24 courses for our employees to learn skills and methods which will help them continue to develop the best products for customers like you!