Continuous Improvement in Technology
Continuous Improvement surges about 60 years ago in Toyota, with a production system based on methodologies such as lean manufacturing and Kaizen Continuous Improvement. Years later, these methodologies adapted to fields like logistics, food, health, services, construction -and technology was not an exception.
Currently, Continuous Improvement is considered a corporate strategy, a concept that seeks to improve products, services and processes. It is based on self-assessments, since with it, companies detect strengths that we should keep and also areas of improvement. The objective of this recognition is to turn these areas into improvement projects by eliminating waste of resources and any other operation that does not add value to the processes or final products, according to Lean methodologies and tools, and Kaizen principles.
One of the tools organizations mostly use for continuous improvement is the Deming Cycle, also known as PDCA cycle (Plan-do-check-act). This is a tool that merges with the companies’ daily processes and adds a fundamental value as part of the management systems. There are several ISO standards that refer to Continuous Improvement: ISO 9001 discusses it in the Quality Management System, and ISO 4001 in the Environmental Management System. Both standards’ certification are current projects for Perfiles Tecnológicos, which is in an active process for their implementation.
One of the FAQ is: how does a company start with Continuous Improvement?
There are different pieces of advice that companies may apply to start the journey into Continuous Improvement. First, starting with the analysis. Gathering the right information allows companies to strategically identify the areas that may cause a significative impact. It is also necessary to follow up on important disruptions, to analyze the root cause and state mending average times for these disruptions. This is an excellent way to start off. Once these bases are set, companies create a plan for improvement. Having metrics and indicators in the processes is an useful facilitator to identify if the implementations are coming alone as expected.
Another option is, in case the organization’s teams work with short cycles, doing some retrospection at the end of every cycle. This adds up to the improvement of team processes, morale, and project management. The analysis also develops an important role with the team’s improvement, since collective improvement of key metrics become data for analysis.
Companies should also remember that not everything can be improved. It is possible that some processes can be reviewed or even eliminated after analysis and action plans. Only the necessary data must be tracked.
All things mentioned ser highly entrenched to the corporate culture. Companies must cultivate an environment where all teams collaborate to solve problems together and constantly assess the life cycle of processes, products and services. The implementation of Continuous Improvement is everyone’s responsibility in the company, and not only related to one department.
These Continuous Improvement details apply to any industry, including technological ones. It may be difficult to reflect these concepts in non-manufacturing companies, but they are as effective in technology companies with a big range of projects that require defined structures and strategical improvements to reduce waste and optimize operation costs.
An important myth to debunk is the thought that Continuous Improvement requires investing in expensive technologies. This is not necessarily the case. Continuous Improvement is about making changes in business processes, not necessarily technology. Even though the technological implementation allows for continuous improvement, it is not a prerequisite since this area works with different business aspects. In other words, continuous improvement focuses on quality, cost and product-service delivery and on adjusting processes that improve control over business elements. Usually companies are able to make improvements in these processes without a technological change to create relevant profits in every area. It is certainly not rare that many successful projects become a reality without the need of a technological expense in order to see satisfactory results.
And, as stated previously, regardless of the kind of business -service or manufacturing- there are specific processes for each business area, and this is precisely the right place to implement techniques and tools with Continuous Improvement.
Author: Alexa Cascante Picado