Continuous Improvement: A Short, Simple Guide On How To Improve a Process

Process ImprovementContinuous Improvement: A Short, Simple Guide On How To Improve a Process

Working on-site at a customer plant, I get to see and experience lean principals put into practice. The one that often seems to fall behind is that of Continuous Improvement. While some companies claim they have CI boards posted and have trained employees on their use, I find that these boards are often used to “replace carpet” or "purchase a more efficient printer."

While it’s nice to get a new printer or carpet, those changes don't really dig down to what Continuous Improvement is all about. Most people think it's just a buzzword that gets thrown around. However, CI needs to be driven throughout the entire organization. Everyone needs to be looking for safe, fast, cost-saving methods to complete tasks. There are three methods that I use when trying to improve a processe:

1. Write out the Standard Operating ProcedureSOP (SOP): Sounds simple, but I often find that I had been completing the same processes for months thinking I was performing them the most efficient way. Until I wrote out an SOP. Writing out an SOP forces you to outline each step. The SOP should be simple enough that an outsider could follow the process simply by referencing the SOP. Outlining a process step by step can expose muda (waste) that would otherwise go unknown.

2. Share Best Practices With Co-Workers: When covering for a co-worker, I am focused on completing two jobs (the co-worker's and mine) and do not have time to think about process improvement. By taking time to actually share the process, I may find there are actually computer programs or other people with the ability to complete the same process faster, differently, or with less steps.

3. Identify My Problems: There are several processes that people complete on a daily basis that they feel are a hassle to do. Instead of complaining about a process, identify your pain points and investigate better ways to complete the task. I often find that a simple Excel macro will do the trick.

Other Continuous Improvement Considerations

You don’t have to hit a homerun every time you improve a process. Just think: if you improve the process of a daily report by 30 seconds, you save approximately 25 minutes a year. That may not sound like a lot, but think about how much value-added work you could spend time completing instead for every process improved by that much!


Written by Ben Green, Lean Logistics Manager at LeanCor

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Posted by LeanCor Supply Chain Group

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LeanCor Supply Chain Group is a trusted supply chain partner that specializes in lean principles to deliver operational improvement. LeanCor’s three integrated divisions – LeanCor Training and Education, LeanCor Consulting, and LeanCor Logistics – help organizations eliminate waste, drive down costs, and build a culture of continuous improvement.

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