The hidden treasures of continuous improvement: gains too often unexploited
In the complex and ever-evolving world of business, companies are constantly seeking ways to improve, adapt, and thrive. A proven approach to achieve these goals is continuous improvement, a method that goes far beyond simple cost reduction. In this article, we will explore how integrating quantitative and qualitative objectives from the outset of a continuous improvement initiative can yield significant benefits. From reducing lead times to enhancing quality, from safety to employee satisfaction, we will delve into a realm where each improvement contributes to shaping a future of excellence and enhancing both customer and employee experiences. Get ready to discover how inspiring goals can transform your organization and guide it towards a better reality.
Incorporate appropriate objectives from the outset
The structure of continuous improvement projects can be achieved through the DMAIC methodology (Define, Measure, Analyze, Innovate, Implement, Control), derived from Lean Six Sigma. In the context of this approach, the Measure phase involves quantifying and objectively delineating the problem. Initial data and measurements serve as the baseline for quantifying issues (such as quality, lead times, costs), enabling the setting of continuous improvement objectives for the project and the team. Beyond instilling a sense of purpose in teams and the organization regarding the importance of change, this phase is crucial in a continuous improvement project.
Targeted and relevant objectives can have an impact on mobilization and the creation of meaning for the engaged teams. The entire organization can thus benefit from stronger commitment and an opportunity to progress effectively and sustainably. Objectives may encompass expected financial gains, along with a wide range of other benefits such as increased customer satisfaction, operational effectiveness, or improvements in the workplace climate.
To define objectives, it is essential to have a comprehensive perspective on issues and opportunities while demonstrating creativity. These are key success factors in identifying both direct and indirect benefits from continuous improvement for businesses.
A wide variety of benefits to consider
The gains from continuous improvement initiatives can be manifold. To stimulate creativity, we share with you the six types of gains that may be interesting to study.
Efficiency Gains: These are cost savings associated with increased productivity or enhanced activities in production, coordination, or administration. Organizations may question how to optimize resource management effectively to improve performance and results, emphasizing the concept of value-added in Lean management. Such objectives lead teams to examine all activities carried out within a process, such as:
- Value-added activities – those generating value for the team and for which the customer is willing to bear costs.
- Mandatory or process-related non-value-added activities – essential activities often associated with compliance or established standards that must be minimized in time and effort.
- Non-value-added activities – non-productive activities, often perceived as disruptions, to be reduced or eliminated to increase efficiency, directly enhancing time spent on productive activities, reducing unit production costs, and improving productivity.
Customer Experience benefits: Enhanced customer experience can involve a wide variety of aspects, including fluidity, simplicity, customer space arrangement, and service quality. We can also refer to the reduction of various types of delays, providing a competitive advantage, and enhancing the customer experience. When eliminating non-value-added activities, the time available for employees to provide excellent customer service is made possible through an increase in time allocated to value-added activities. The customer experience is thus enhanced, leading to a direct impact on customer satisfaction.
Quality Gains: This refers to cost savings achieved through improved product and service quality. Errors and poor quality generate considerable costs. To ensure optimal quality from the start, it is necessary to eliminate rework actions such as redoing, restarting, and revising ongoing activities, as they unnecessarily waste time and resources. Costs of non-quality are measurable through rejection rates or returns, for example.
Safety Improvement Gains: Costs that can be avoided are associated with workplace accidents leading to absenteeism of organizational talents. Workplace accidents affect an organization’s production and execution capacity by depriving it of essential skills and talents. Workplace accidents can result in significant financial expenses. For example, in Quebec, an employer’s contributions to the CNESST (Commission des normes, de l’éthique, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail) are directly influenced by the number of claims. From another perspective, incidents related to cybersecurity when practices are not optimal, can be avoided. Thus, the number of incidents resulting from human errors can be reduced using the Lean concept. For instance, restricting the use of USB drives by encrypting the keys or simply closing write ports on computers is a relevant and effective Lean tool to prevent errors.
Workplace Climate and Mobilization Gains: Reductions in costs associated with a poor workplace climate and tensions caused by deficient work processes. Optimized and smoother processes enhance the value of employees’ work. Instead of having sources of conflicts and frictions among employees, the focus is on collaboration and exchanges. Employee retention, reduction of absenteeism, and increased well-being at work directly impact productivity, costs, and revenues of any organization.
Financial Gains: Ultimately, reductions in budgets allocated to an activity. Moving away from a logic of strict cost reduction, organizations would benefit from adopting improvement approaches that enable them to do better with existing resources. Anticipating gains can be maximized if cost reduction objectives are associated with the other gains mentioned above.
The identification of inspiring, complementary targets aligned with corporate objectives and the organization’s evolution is a key success factor for your projects. This approach, which seeks to identify benefits from various perspectives such as efficiency, safety, and the work environment, provides a comprehensive and holistic view of the company and its processes. Ultimately, these targets serve to give meaning to action, mobilizing the necessary resources to implement the required transformations.
Beyond mere figures, these targets become vectors of communication, mobilization, and pride when achieved. They pave the way for a continuous and rewarding transformation for your organization.