You may have considered how you can make your organization or manufacturing process more efficient using continuous improvement or Lean manufacturing principles but have lacked the time to investigate further. It can be hard to know the best place to start, let alone how to achieve sustained results. Here are six tips from RevAZ, Arizona’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership program housed at the Arizona Commerce Authority, on how to approach implementing and sustaining continuous improvement in your organization:


1. Leadership Buy-in Required: It’s hard to drive change from the bottom up, the company’s leadership team must believe in the benefits of implementing a continuous improvement roadmap. Continuous improvement is a culture shift as much as it is a shift in how specific processes are implemented. For employees to buy into this change, they need to see that the leadership team is a champion.


--Benefits need to be understood by the leadership team

--Leadership is committed and champions the effort

--Implementation and sustained efforts are supported with the required resources


2. Training is the First Step: Employees at all levels need to understand the terms and methodology used in continuous improvement. They need to understand the benefits and the positive effects it can have on their work-life.  While you may offer your first training with key staff, all employees should receive the same training, and it can be added as part of the onboarding process for new employees.


--Get everyone trained as a first step

--Build collective understanding of the concepts so everyone is on the same page

--Add to onboarding process for new hires


3. Clearly Defined Goals: Be specific about what you want to achieve. If you don’t have goals, you can’t measure your progress, and evaluation becomes subjective. The goals should align with company’s vision and strategy.


--Use SMART (Specific, Reasonable, Achievable, Relevant, Timebound) goals

--Communicate goals with employees and confirm understanding

--Align goals with organization’s vision and growth strategy


4. Objective Viewpoints Valued: When you have worked with a process for a while you accept that “it’s just the way things are done” and this acceptance can blind you to new solutions. When you embark on your continuous improvement project invite people who don’t work on that production line or with that process to be part of your team. They can offer an objective viewpoint and using their insight you may discover that what you thought was clearly defined or “made sense” could be improved.


--Invite employees who do not work on the process/production line to be part of the review team

--Hire a third-party expert to do an assessment and facilitate the first project

--Input from team members working on the floor is welcomed


5. Use a Systematic Approach: The most benefit can be found when continuous improvement is implemented by the entire organization. If one group is championing the cause but excludes other supporting departments the organization will not realize the full benefits of continuous improvement.


--Think about upstream and downstream processes

--Think about how the organization will implement improvements

--Need leadership team champions


6. Sustained Improvement is the Goal:To sustain the continuous improvement culture, ensure your processes are documented, visible and well understood. Goals also need to be visible and understood by the entire team, and progress towards goals should be regularly communicated. When new team members are added they need to receive continuous improvement training.


--Processes are documented and visible

--Goals are visible and well understood

--Progress is reported regularly


RevAZ's mission is to make every Arizona manufacturer the most successful business it can be. From customized operational and business solutions, concrete advice to training and hands on assistance, RevAZ's expert team is here to help you achieve your business goals in the most cost effective manner possible. 


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