Increasing Competitiveness with Continuous Improvement In today’s challenging market there is no doubt that companies need to improve their competitiveness. The market has become saturated with products from competitors from all over the globe. Globalized business has created business competition that many companies have never experienced before. As a result, companies need to be quick and nimble in order to answer to the demand for high quality products produced at shortened delivery times, increased services, and very competitive prices.
Companies that want to remain competitive are faced with two common solutions. The first is investment and purchasing technology. This obviously requires financial resources, which generally requires short term price increases to recover the extra costs. Also, the future market competition cannot be assured as a result the company can face financial difficulties from the added debt. The second solution is continuous improvement. This solution is generally chosen because unlike investing which costs a lot of money continuous improvement doesn’t require a large capital investment.
Continuous improvement still increases competitiveness it just does it by focusing on a company’s human resources. A company’s most important asset is its human resources; however this huge and powerful resource is generally not utilized in most companies. Keep in mind as we move forward that continuous improvement uses five pillars: 1. Involve all company employees and managers 2. Look for savings without using an investment 3. Quantify information 4. Use common sense 5. Implement ideas Implementing continuous improvement Continuous improvement also known as improvement projects are generally large nd can take some time to complete. However, there are smaller forms of continuous improvement entities that are sometimes referred to as quality circles, suggestion programs, and improvement groups. In a lot of cases these smaller continuous improvement groups as well as the improvement projects are applied within a company at the same time. Organizational structure The organizational structure of an improvement project is broken into three separate teams. First the implementation team this team consists of two to three members of top management. These members implement and maintain the project’s benefits.
The second is the improvement team, which includes five to eight members from every department of the company. These members work on implementing improvements ideas. The third team is the support team, who is made up of members from the implementation team and department leaders. The support team develops and implements the project and exchanges information between all teams. Beginning stages of the improvement project Like any project the focus that you have in the beginning will define the entire project moving forward. That’s why it is important to follow the next five steps that define the beginning stages.
The first step is defining the projects master lines also known as objective and scope of the project. The second step you will present the project. The project needs to presented and approved by the director and managers of the company. Once approved you are ready to move to the step three which is implementing the project. After implementing the project you will move to step four which is assessing the results and follow up. Compare your results from changes against your projects objectives. The last and final step is extending the project. Gradually update and change other areas based upon your findings.
Operation of the improvement project The operation of the improvement project is defined by the following five steps. It is important to remember that the improvement team’s job is to introduce continuous improvement and follow these steps during the operation. The first step is to present the project to the improvement team and department employees. During the presentation meeting the scope and objectives of the project are defined to the group. Note that the second step of explaining the diagnosis is completed just after the presentation meeting. During this step the problem areas are explained and diagnosed to the group.
The third step is called stages to solve problems. The team will hold weekly meetings to analyze the department problems and assign implementation tasks using a tool called an improvement action plan (IAP). It is important to note that during the solution process there are three stages. The first stage is ‘Learning’ this is when objectives are defined and improved which leads to continuous improvement. The second stage is ‘establishment’ during this stage problems are harder to solve, but by this point the team can see it’s possible to obtain the project objectives.
The last and final stage is ‘explosion’ this is when the team completes and attains its project goals. The fourth step is when the team presents results. During this step the team highlights the project results to the director and company managers. The last step is maintaining results for continuous improvement. This step is extremely important since it is critical that process improvement changes are sustained. Sustainment can be achieved by performing area audits to ensure compliance. Through continuous improvement, companies are capable of producing better quality products and services at a cheaper price.