18 October 2023

A holistic approach to continuous improvement

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Each business improvement methodology has a primary focus and approach to driving improvement in an organization. A process engineer I worked with a couple of weeks ago asked which of the three improvement methodologies I liked the best between lean manufacturing, the theory of constraints and Six Sigma. This person was seeking advice on the best medicine for his company’s mediocre financial performance. It is not the first time I have heard the question, and I offer this insight for leaders on the verge of making a commitment to improvement and looking to jump-start programs that are now inactive.
Waste and drivers
Lean manufacturing alone focuses on the elimination of process waste. Our lean training traditionally lists seven types of waste with three driving contributors.
The seven types of waste are:
1. Correction
2. Overproduction
3. Movement of Material
4. Motion
5. Waiting
6. Inventory
7. Processing
And the three driving contributors are:
1. Unevenness
2. Overburden
3. Current process methods
Waste has a distinct look and feel, requiring extra floor space, extra time, inventory stockpiles, missed shipments, mediocre quality and an organization that needs to be more proactive in prevention.
The worst of the waste elements is overproduction because it drives unnecessary work with movement, storage and cash drain. Because the waste is visual on the production floor, many lean initiatives focus on shop floor practices with a heavy emphasis on kaizen projects. The commitment to lean real-life practices produces good results. Still, after initial kaizen campaigns around 5S and some basic requirements, they become nothing more than isolated islands of excellence. Efforts are operator focused and typically do not address company culture, so most initiatives run their course quickly without sustained internalization.
For the full Labels & Labeling article click here.


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