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Continuous Improvement

What is continuous improvement?
Continuous improvement is the continuous improvement of business processes, products or services through incremental or groundbreaking improvements.

What is continuous improvement?
Continuous improvement is the continuous improvement of business processes, products or services through incremental or groundbreaking improvements.

Incremental improvements are efforts made over time to improve something. Groundbreaking changes are major breakthroughs or improvements all at once.

Continuous improvement helps companies identify improvements for work processes and improve waste. This is central to the Lean principles.

Lean and Six Sigma give context to the term continuous improvement, which can otherwise be quite abstract. Continuous improvement is also called Kaizen in Lean management terms.

Kaizen originated in Japan, shortly after the end of World War II. It became one of the most successful principles behind Toyota’s production unit. Sakichi Toyoda and Taiichi Ohno are considered the founders of this important discipline within quality management.

Continuous improvement strives to improve operations that provide the most value to the customer while eliminating as much waste as possible. Zero Defects, developed by Philip Crosby, goes one step further. This method strives for absolute perfection in production.

Muda, Mura, Muri

Within LEAN Manufacturing and Gemba Kaizen there are three types of waste.

Muda (wastefulness)

Muda consists of the seven main wastes found in processes:

  1. Transportation
  2. Inventory
  3. Motion
  4. Waiting
  5. Overproduction
  6. Over-processing
  7. Defects

It is nearly impossible to completely remove all waste in these 7 areas, but focusing on minimizing it is crucial.

Mura (unevenness)

Mura is created by inconsistencies in the process. It is therefore responsible for many of the 7 wastes of Muda. Mura is the cause of inefficient flows through the work process and therefore stands in the way of a continuous and efficient flow of efforts.

Muri (overburden)

Mura is a problem for companies using push systems. Assigning too much work to a team or machine creates unnecessary stress. Mura is often the result of Mura. It ensures that people keep playing catch up, so to speak.

PDCA cycle

The PDCA cycle is an improvement cycle based on the principles of Lean and Kaizen. It is widely used in combination with tools such as Business Process Re-engineering (BPR) or Business Process Mapping (BPM) to implement changes, measure results and take appropriate measures. The PDCA cycle is also known as the Deming cycle, named after W. Edwards Deming, who introduced the concept in the 1950s.

PDCA consists of four phases:

  1. Plan
  2. Do
  3. Check
  4. Act

Benefits

Continuously improving business processes is the most important way companies reduce operational overheads.

Applying the Lean principles enables efficient workflows that save time and money. This reduces wasted time and effort. Every project has opportunities to improve, but often no one has taken that chance yet.

It is important for a project manager to know what the costs will be to complete a sprint or project. For this reason, most management firms benefit from knowing how much time it takes to get certain types of work done.

Project managers can therefore reduce project costs and avoid surpluses. They do this with Forecasting Software, a combination of software and data management.

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Tips and tricks

The articles linked to the continuous improvement tag deal with the various methods, techniques and theories related to this topic. Missing a topic about continuous improvement? Let us know in the comments or send an email.

PDCA Cycle

September 23rd, 2022

PDCA Cycle: this article explains the PDCA cycle further developed by William Edwards Deming in a practical way. After reading you will understand the basics of this powerful problem solving approach. What is the PDCA cycle? In process-oriented work, organizations…

Gemba Kaizen

August 16th, 2022

Gemba Kaizen: this article explains the concept of Gemba Kaizen. After reading you will understand this Japanese company philosophy and the underlying factors for successful quality management. What is Gemba Kaizen? Gemba Kaizen is Japanese for continuous improvement

DMADV Process

August 16th, 2022

DMADV Process: this article describes the concept of the DMADV Process in a practical way. After reading you will understand the definition and basics of this powerful quality management tool. What is the DMADV Process? DMADV is a Six Sigma

Eight Dimensions of Quality

August 16th, 2022

Eight Dimensions of Quality: this article provides a practical explanation of the eight dimensions of quality by David A.Garvin. After reading, you’ll understand the basics of this powerful management tool. Who defined the eight dimensions of quality? The eight…

EFQM Model

August 16th, 2022

EFQM Model: this article explains the EFQM Model in a practical way. After reading you will understand the basics of this powerful quality management tool. What is the EFQM Model? EFQM is an acronym that stands for: European Foundation for…

Charles Kepner

July 29th, 2022

Charles Kepner (Charles Higgins Kepner or Chuck Kepner; 1922 – 2016) was a famous American problem solving expert. He also was a successful entrepreneur and management consultant, who helped hundreds of companies in sixty different countries. His work and methodologies…

Kaoru Ishikawa

July 12th, 2022

Kaoru Ishikawa (1915 – 1989) was a Japanese professor, advisor and motivator with respect to the innovative developments within the field of quality management. Kaoru Ishikawa is best known for the development of the concept of the fishbone diagram

Zero Defects (ZD)

July 4th, 2022

Zero Defects: this article provides a practical explanation of the concept of Zero Defects by Philip Crosby. After reading, you will have a basic understanding of this powerful quality management tool. What is Zero Defects? Zero Defects refers to one…

A3 Lean template

June 8th, 2022

A3 Lean: this article explains the A3 Lean template in a practical way. After reading you will understand the basics of this powerful problem solving tool. This article also contains a downloadable and editable a3 format lean single page template.…

Hoshin Kanri Matrix

May 2nd, 2022

Hoshin Kanri Matrix: this article explains the Hoshin Kanri Matrix in a practical way. After reading you will understand the basics of this powerful strategy tool. This article also contains a downloadable and editable hoshin kanri matrix excel template

Value Stream Mapping (VSM)

March 1st, 2022

Value Stream Mapping: this article explains Value Stream Mapping in a practical way. After reading you will understand the basics of this powerful problem solving and continuous improvement tool. What is Value Stream Mapping? In a Value Stream Mapping business…
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