Continuous improvement: How to build a resilient organisation

Continuous improvement (CI) is how leading organisations maintain their competitive edge while navigating ongoing economic uncertainty. Find out more about what it is and how to measure it; the benefits it can bring your organisation; where to start your CI journey; and how to ensure its success below.

Discover more about how continuous improvement applies to your organisation:

Continuous Improvement Methodologies

From Lean Six Sigma, Kaizen and 5S to tools like DMAIC and PDCA, continuous improvement methodologies provide the framework for the delivery of manufacturers’ processes and systems, workforces and technologies.

Learn about driving results through CI methods and tools

Continuous Improvement Strategy

A continuous improvement strategy helps manufacturers develop and implement the best practices they need to become world-class organisations unafraid of – and strengthened by – change.

Discover how to develop a continuous improvement strategy

Continuous Improvement in Manufacturing

Integrating ongoing improvement into day-to-day business philosophy has played a key role in driving many leading manufacturers and industrial companies across the world to new heights in business performance and ROI.

7 success stories of continuous improvement in manufacturing

Continuous Improvement Culture

Creating buy-in and getting everyone in your organisation engaged and involved in making small gains consistently is the essence of a successful CI transformation. Here’s what a vibrant CI culture looks like.

Explore how a continuous improvement culture is the bedrock of world-class manufacturing

Continuous Improvement Journey

The journey of continuous improvement is an ongoing cycle of improving competitiveness, consolidating gains and measuring performance. All actions need to be sequenced carefully, managed consistently and reviewed at regular intervals to ensure optimal impact.

Learn how to ensure success on your continuous improvement journey

Continuous Improvement Planning

Your strategy must plan for how cross-functional collaboration will be promoted; how tasks are assigned towards integrative improvement; and an assessment of your organisation’s current level of digital maturity, and what skills and technology gaps need to be filled.

Learn about developing a continuous improvement plan in the digital age

Continuous Improvement System

While most manufacturers face similar concerns regarding consumer behaviour, increased competition and digitalisation, their organisational requirements and approaches to CI will differ. Choosing the right system helps organisations build competitive advantages, now and into the future.

Discover how a continuous improvement system boosts business performance

Continuous Improvement Process

To make organisations more resilient, agile and resourceful, a rigorous CI process providing strategic direction needs to be implemented. Building this organisational DNA supports digitalisation and automation optimising all functions to work as one and deliver superior service.

Explore the what, why and how of a continuous improvement process

What does continuous improvement mean?

Continuous improvement (CI) is an organisation’s ongoing efforts to improve all its processes, practices, products and services. It is often realised through small, steady and incremental improvements, but big breakthrough improvements are also possible. A world-famous example of a continuous improvement approach in action is the Toyota Production System (TPS).

The global manufacturing industry holds the TPS in high esteem – and for good reason too. Its lean philosophy underpins an efficient methodology that creates more value without generating waste. The result is an entire organisation working together to continuously improve the way it works to ensure superior customer satisfaction.

 

Why is continuous improvement important?

The advent of advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), automation, machine learning, data analytics, the Internet of Things (IoT) and robotics has transformed manufacturing operations. As a result, organisations have had to digitalise their operations and move from a traditional, function-focused production system to a modern, digital operating system (DOS).

A DOS is the next generation in production systems specifically geared to support digitally transformed or transforming manufacturing operations. It’s designed to merge lean and smart principles for ultimate efficiency and agility.

In this digital age, a continuous development approach is more important than ever before. Digital transformation is a complex organisational transition. With a CI culture firmly in place, manufacturers can position the shift to a DOS as positive change and encourage holistic buy-in through inclusive improvements and innovations. This enables them to mitigate disruption, remain competitive throughout the digitalisation process and achieve sustainable success.

 

How does continuous improvement work?

For CI to succeed, for it to strengthen an organisation’s competitive position, it needs all employees to be involved and working together towards the same goal. To create a culture of continuous improvement, organisations need to:

  • Ensure a committed leadership
  • Involve and empower their employees
  • Recognise the value of incremental improvements
  • Focus on the customer
  • Measure improvements
  • Share ideas, collaborate and celebrate successes

How leaders lead is a crucial component of CI. As such, there needs to be a shift in leaders’ focus from running the business ‘as a boss’ to improving the business ‘as a colleague’. Continuous improvement solutions are brought to life and sustained by leaders who, through their own behaviours and actions, encourage their teams to embrace positive change.

There is a method to activating a continuous development approach and maintaining momentum. Organisations can use these six steps to integrate CI processes into their operations. Continuous improvement needs to be sustained in a continuous cycle; organisations move seamlessly from step 1 to step 6 and back to step 1 to ensure that efforts are ongoing.

 

What are the benefits of continuous improvement?

The primary benefit of continuous improvement is that it improves an organisation’s resilience. It achieves this through a range of other benefits that impact the business.

 

Specific benefit Impact
Operational excellence Products and services that anticipate customer needs, resulting in better customer service
Competitive advantage Improved flexibility and responsiveness by streamlining all processes
Empowered employees A proactive learning culture that encourages everyone to keep up with new technologies and trends, share knowledge and drive innovation
Reduced costs and wastes Increased revenue
World-class maturity and capabilities Successful digital transformation with limited to no disruptions during the transition
Improved product quality Fewer defective products and production errors

 

How do you measure the benefits of continuous improvement?

The impact of continuous improvement efforts is measured in tangible outcomes that directly affect a manufacturer’s bottom line. These key performance indicators (KPIs) can apply to various business objectives in the following ways:

 

Improvement area Example of what to measure
Production costs Volumes of water consumption
Employee health and safety Number of factory floor incidents
Quality control Amount of defected product returns
Customer satisfaction Customer retention
Reputation Customer acquisition
Competitiveness/ market position Time to market

 

Every organisation will have its own set of KPIs that relate to its particular set of objectives. However, success can be broken down into three business segments: Customer, Cost and Cash.

Typical ROI achieved through an integrative CI solution

 

TRACC Results

 

Download the eBook: The definitive guide to integrative improvement and find out how this holistic approach to continuous improvement is helping leading organisations remain resilient and unlock superior performance.

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How do you ensure the success of your continuous improvement approach?

Continuous improvement efforts pay the highest dividends when the philosophy of continuous development and improvement is embedded into an organisation’s cultural DNA. This supports a steady flow of incremental improvements that, when communicated company-wide, inspires employee engagement. When employees feel accountable in their work and empowered to innovate, they are much more motivated to put effort into making improvements.

Organisational leaders play a vital role in building a continuous improvement culture. Their actions, behaviours and commitment to CI influence employee confidence and buy-in. How leaders approach continuous improvement will determine their success at inspiring it among their teams, which ultimately determines the organisation’s overall level of CI success. It is a large responsibility but fortunately, leaders can follow these 8 focus areas to guide their teams.

 

What is the connection between integrative improvement and continuous improvement?

An integrative approach to continuous improvement is designed to ensure that improvement initiatives include everyone and impact the business as a whole. It supports the shift to a DOS by dismantling operational silos and integrating teams for faster, better results. Essentially, an integrative improvement approach:

  • Arranges an organisation around end-to-end processes that serve customer segments rather than functions
  • Involves all employees in improving processes and systems
  • Ensures committed leadership that actively encourages the right mindset and behaviours to support integrative improvement principles
  • Embeds CI into the culture of the organisation

 

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