The extent to which lean continuous improvement (LCI) has impacted how manufacturers conduct business highlights the significance of LCI. The iterative process for achieving incremental gains exemplifies the mindset that lean continuous improvement fosters, which promotes ever-higher performance levels.
A word on how we use the phrase “lean continuous improvement” before we get started.
Lean continuous improvement (LCI), is also known as process improvement, business process management, and continuous improvement, are all used interchangeably in this article.
We understand that these terms technically have various meanings. Lean, for instance, is a mindset that emphasizes ongoing development (Kaizen). We use it as an umbrella phrase since, in our experience, the terms overlap significantly when used in actual practice on the shop floor.
The origin of contemporary lean continuous improvement began with this reintroduction of the worker into the improvement process.
The most innovative and effective initiative among these early innovators was run by Lincoln Electric. The U.S. government, which initially tried anti-trust litigation, claimed that the idea was so successful that it led to workers being “over-paid.” In the end, the system was dissolved after the government launched a lawsuit under the war powers act.
In a cruel irony, the Japanese were later required to employ the same system that Lincoln had created by the U.S. government. This requirement paved the way for Kaizen and the Toyota Production System and directly contributed to the growth of the Japanese quality movement.
The processes involved in modern production are integrated into a network. These procedures make up the operational framework for producing final goods. These processes frequently traverse functional areas, work units, and unofficial “silos.”
Because of this intricacy, process improvement can be challenging. Indeed, progress calls for consistent effort and a disciplined approach. In other words, the work may be difficult.
Manufacturers take up the problem because effective improvement programs are very advantageous. These advantages aid in illuminating the significance of lean continuous improvement, but there is more to the tale, which we will cover in further detail in the following section.
Lean continuous improvement is essential because:
- Customer loyalty is primarily driven by the delivered value of a product or service.
- Value creation and delivery are the output of business processes.
- Consumers have grown to expect improvements to delivered value in highly competitive markets.
- To continuously improve delivered value requires businesses to improve their value creation processes continually.
Thus, lean continuous improvement is a means of survival in the modern global economy.
All manufacturers and businesses have opportunities for improvement. The most evident and well-known are improvements that:
- Decrease manufacturing defects
- Lower scrap cost
- Shorten cycle times
- Reduce lead time
Many other areas exist as well, such as improving:
- Workforce cooperation, engagement, morale, and job satisfaction
- Managerial practices
- Better product design by including a feature that meets consumer needs or increases reliability and productivity
- Improve industrial process productivity by examining ways to reduce employee ‘wait’ time or ways to minimize any unnecessary movements
Employee experience and creativity are unleashed by lean continuous improvement projects to enhance both products and processes.
According to CMTC, manufacturers that have successfully adopted lean continuous improvement often realize numerous benefits such as:
- Increased productivity
- Improved quality
- Lower costs
- Shorter lead times
- Higher levels of employee engagement and morale
- Less employee attrition
Other benefits include:
- Greater efficiency
- Fewer defects, errors, and scrap
- Increased innovation
- Increased profitability
These advantages are frequently multiple and mutually reinforcing. Increasing productivity from higher quality results in reduced prices and shorter lead times.
Lean continuous improvement aims to strengthen an organization’s capacity to create value. Manufacturers must continually work to give their customers the best value if they want to stay competitive.
What aspects of a product are consumers prepared to pay extra for? What stages of your production would your client consider valuable?
Understanding your customers’ value views is essential to LCI.
The answers to the aforementioned and other comparable queries help manufacturers highlight and enhance what they do (that create value). They also direct us to eliminate or reduce anything that does not offer value in the eyes of the customer. Waste is something that does not provide value.
Therefore, cutting waste and enhancing sources of value production will also result in an improved final product. Higher levels of consumer satisfaction are a result of this gain in value.
Kaizen is Japanese for continuous improvement. It embraces the idea that continuous improvement involves everyone and makes no distinction between workers and managers in this regard.
Three pillars form the foundation of Kaizen:
- a company’s most valuable asset is its people;
- quantitative analysis of process data is the best basis for improvement;
- processes that evolve through small, incremental improvement are superior to those born from radical change.
Innovative breakthroughs or radical shifts are so striking and obvious that rivals are aware of them and can easily imitate them. As an illustration, Uber’s game-changing innovation launched a smartphone app to hire a driver rather than phoning a cab. Bolt and Lyft, two of Uber’s rivals, quickly embraced these ground-breaking improvements. The iPhone is yet another instance.
Small, gradual changes, however, continue to be protected. They are by nature confidential, and any minor advancement rarely merits the attention of the entire business community. Over time these small changes add up to significant improvements in a company’s ability to create value. With knowledge safely inside the company, they can enjoy an advantage in the marketplace from having a superior process. Or at least it takes longer to find its way into competitors’ processes, and it is probably rare that it ever will.