Deming’s Point No. 5 – Improve Constantly and Forever The System of Production & Service
W. Edwards Deming’s 5th point is the key to staying in business in these competitive times. This is relevant more than ever in this globally, competitive manufacturing environment. If we are staying the same, we are falling behind the competition and could eventually find ourselves out of business.
Continual improvement is by no means a new topic and neither are many of the tools and techniques that many organizations are using to try to stay competitive. Some of these tools and techniques are six sigma, lean manufacturing, kaizen events, and the list goes on.
Unfortunately many organizations treat corrective actions and unrelated improvement projects as their continual improvement methodology. Corrective action is important as are small improvement projects, but these in themselves do not make a solid continual improvement program that will make and keep them competitive in the long term. Improvement projects should be contributing to an overall strategy or goal that the organization has set.
There are a number of principles or strategies that an organization can and should follow to achieve this objective. I will briefly discuss each below:
a) Gather data on your core/ critical processes. This is not merely your manufacturing processes, but you business processes as well. If we are not improving our business processes as well we are not completing the mission. A Japanese term – “Gemba Kaizen” focuses on going to where the work or process is done vs. sitting in a meeting room discussing what might be going on.
b) Focus on employee involvement, employee empowerment and employee development. The only way to truly improve is to involve all areas and levels of the organization. To do otherwise is like only using ½ of the travel of your gas pedal during a race. Having said that, in order to get the maximum value out of our workforce we have to develop them and train them to bring out that knowledge with the use of statistical tools, team building methods, quality tools and we need to be wiling to step back as managers to empower them to make and act on their decisions. This also means that middle management needs to be involved and onboard with this or we will be doomed to failure. Turing loose on some of our authority can sometimes be the biggest challenge (it is human nature to want to be in control).
c) Change the reward systems to support the new way. As long as we celebrate the “rise to the challenge” to “get the order out of the door at all costs” we will continue to focus on fire fighting and corrective action instead of true improvement. Many organizations are guilty of this.Toyotahit the nail on the head with the “stop and fix” mentality – at least as long as we are focusing on the system and it’s improvement vs. the immediate “problem” that occurred (or worse yet – whose fault was it?)
This list is not all inclusive but it is a start to get us in the right direction.
Here is to improvement.