The benefits of continuous improvement in 2022

In 2022, with a touch of humor, here is the kind of things we often hear about continuous improvement:

 

  • “Yes, we have done continuous improvement projects; we have put labels on our raw materials.”

 

  • “Continuous improvement… it’s the 5S method, right? I use it to clean up my workstation.”

 

  • “We have a board for that, we fill it in every day but no one looks at it.”

 

  • “I hear about lean six sigma and kaizen all the time.”

 

  • “We are a pioneer company in artificial intelligence programmed robotization ; we have already understood how to eliminate the superfluous from our processes, we do not need Continuous Improvement.”

 

Sound familiar ?

 

Continuous improvement is so much more than that!

 

It is in order to clarify these misunderstandings that this week, Bambou Space has chosen to share with you four organizational challenges that can be achieved with Continuous Improvement tools.

 

 

1- Harnessing complexity

 

We operate in a complex universe; are we addressing the right complexity? Are we taking the right angle? Continuous improvement helps simplify your problem solving through several proven principles, including:

 

  • Little’s law (WIP reduction) : When the demand increases, it is common to think that by increasing the level of inputs in the value chain, that the level of outputs would increase proportionally, allowing us to meet the growing demand. Alas, it is not as simple as that. By increasing the level of inputs, we not only increase the WIP (Work In Progress), but we most likely face the creation of bottlenecks, broken machines, lack of raw materials, etc. Result: by seeking to go faster and produce more, we instead increase delivery times. The objective is therefore to reduce the WIP and to obtain a constant cadence that does not create waiting nor time outs throughout the supply chain.

 

  • Bottleneck focus : By analyzing our processes and procedures, it is possible to put our finger on the bottlenecks and thus establish a plan to eliminate them. Results ? More fluidity; a sign that the correct complexity has been addressed.

 

2- Facilitate decision-making

 

“ What should we start with? What should be prioritized and what should be set aside? ”

 

  • “ Impact/effort ” decision matrix : A two by two matrix, the efforts in x , in y the impact (see illustration). For all suggested ideas, we establish the amount of effort required to accomplish them. Then, we also anticipate the magnitude of the impact. The objective is therefore to prioritize what requires little effort while having a big impact.

Matrice Impact/Effort

  • Root cause analysis : The main objective of this tool is to discover thereal cause of a problem. This allows making decisions that go straight to the point and thus avoid going around in circles. The most popular is the “ 5 Why ” method, which consists of questioning why a certain situation creates a problem. Depending on the answer provided, we repeat the exercise with another relevant question that begins with “ Why ”.

 

  • Floor tour (Gemba Walk) : What does Gemba Walk mean? “ Where the truth is ”. That says it all, right? The goal is to go out on the floor and question the people who work there. The objective is to become familiar with the key performance indicators and to question the employees in order to be able to target whether they have the knowledge required to address the tasks required of them, face obstacles, whether they are able to address them, if they occur frequently, if they know how and when to raise a problem, etc.

 

3- Focus on the long-term vision

 

Why is it really important to have a focus on the long term vision? :

 

First, through uncertain times, especially as we have been living with the pandemic since 2020, it becomes easy to lose track, take unforeseen paths or take detours from our objectives.

 

Second, phenomena such as the Great Resignation (also called the “ Great Questioning ”) reinforce the importance of a long-term vision. Why? We are looking to improve retention and avoid resignations. The current buzzword Mobilization. How? Especially by :

1- Ensuring that employees feel they have the skills required to perform the tasks requested.

2- Providing them with possibilities of self-development in relation to their career aspirations.

3- Giving them the feeling that they have an impact within the organization and that their work makes a difference, even on a larger scale.

 

Continuous improvement gives employees a voice and helps meet the needs listed above!

 

  • Mission, values, vision, the “ Why ” : How? By defining our corporate mission in a way that makes employees feel like they are making a difference, contributing to a cause greater than themselves. Nowadays, employees are increasingly looking for meaning in their work. Is your business helping to create a better world? You’ll ask us: What is the link with continuous improvement? By clarifying or defining the values ​​and vision of your organization, you end up with a guideline, a landmark, a beacon in the storm. It becomes possible to imbue this “ Why ” into everything you do, not only making your employees feel like they are making a difference, but also allowing you to take aligned strategic decisions rather than groping and demobilizing the troops.

 

  • Skills development matrix : Continuous improvement makes it possible to identify the essential skills for the different tasks required. Thus, it becomes clear and simple to determine what an employee lacks in order to be able to master the tasks required of them. It also allows the creation of a progressive training plan for an employee looking to develop their skills in order to add strings to their bow and/or reach a new position or pillar within the company.

 

  • Hoshin Kanri : This is an approach that allows the organization to concentrate all its efforts and workforce in the rapid achievement of an objective. Having the focus on the vision of the organization makes this kind of initiative feasible.

 

 

4- Build and strengthen the customer relationship

 

In a world where everything is happening at an accelerated pace, we are increasingly coming to this conclusion in 2022: the consumer is first and foremost a human being, and what he is fundamentally looking for (whether he is aware of it or not!), are human experiences, feeling connected to others. This is often the decisive factor when a customer hesitates between two solutions, namely the relationship with the supplier in question. Easier said than done, we grant you! This is why it is essential to have proven systems in place to achieve these objectives.

 

  • Voice of the customer(or employees, internal customers, etc.): A continuous improvement approach puts systems in place to collect feedback and customer requests in order to prioritize the implementation of the most repeated suggestions or requests.

 

  • Value Added, always! This is the core of Continuous Improvement. The customer does not want his product to change if it does not bring real value to them. But how happy they will be to see that what they pay for increases in value over time.

 

Bambou Space hopes that the next time you hear about continuous improvement, you will associate it with something other than a tidy workstation or plastic labels to name your drawers. Continuous improvement is a muscle that can be developed, which brings value to customers and facilitates the daily lives of internal employees, in addition to strenghthening their sense of belonging and their mobilization!