Total Quality Management

May 11, 2012

Concept of Continuous Improvement

Continuous improvement is based on a Japanese Concept called Kaizen, is the philosophy of continually seeking ways to improve operations. It invloves identifying benchmarks of excellent practices and instilling a sense of employee ownership of the process. The focus can be on:

  • Reducing the length of time required to process requests for loans in bank
  • The amount of scrap generated at a milling machine or the number of employee injuries.
  • Continuous improvement can also focus on problems with customers or suppliers, such as customers who request frequent changes in shipping quantities and suppliers that to maintain high quality.

The bases of the continuous improvement philosophy are the beliefs that virtually any aspect of an operation can be improved and that the people most closely associated with an operation are in the best position to identify the changes that should be made. Consequently, employee involvement plays a big role in continuous improvement programs.

Getting Started with Continuous Improvement

Instilling a philosophy of continuous improvement in an organization may be a  lengthy process, and several steps are essential to its eventual success.

  1. Train employees in the methods of statistical process control (SPC) and other tools for improvement quality.
  2. Make SPC methods a normal aspect of daily operations.
  3. Build work teams and employee involvement.
  4. Utilize problem-solving techniques within work teams.
  5. Develop a sense of operator ownership of the process.

Here employee involvement is central to the philosophy of continuous improvement. However, the last two steps are crucial if the philosophy is to be the part of everyday operations.A sense of operator ownership emerges when employees feel as if they own the processes and methods they use and take pride in the quality of product or service they produce. It comes from participation on work teams and in problem-solving activities, which instill in employees a feeling that they have some control over their workplace.

Source: Operations Management, Strategy and Analysis, Fourth Edition, Karajewski/Ritzman, Page151-152

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