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Five Steps toward Building Better Profits: Continuous Improvement

In a recent professional development meeting, the presenter, an ISO Assessor, stated that 75% of companies do NOT have documentation and rely on “tribal knowledge” – undocumented processes. This makes it difficult for companies to improve because they don’t really have a handle on what they are doing now.

You can build the documented base needed for continuous improvement in five steps. This process:

  • Increases profits.
  • Improves quality.
  • Reduces waste.
  • Gives customers the ability to approve your process or request changes.
  • Provides a better match between customers’ expectations and the deliverables.
  • Improves employees’ understanding of what is expected.
  • Provides a significant return on investment (ROI) of time and resources.

The process starts with communication. If this is what you’re doing, this is what you say:

  • Build a board.
  • Drop the board on the floor.
  • Pick the board up and brush it off with your bare hand.
  • Stuff the board into a brown paper bag.
  • Ship the board to some poor unsuspecting customer.

Most problems are not so obvious but there is a way to build the base and get started with your continuous improvement effort. Here are five steps to help get you started:

Step 1

Capture what you can see happening now. For example, in a manufacturing plant, the product might go from Ed for board assembly to Phil for dropping and brushing to Mike for bag stuffing and then to Mary for shipping. That’s what’s happening now – the current physical specification.

Step 2

From this current physical specification, develop a current logical specification, replacing the names of people with job titles which will be clearly defined later. Using the same example, the product would go from board assembly technician to dropping and brushing specialist to bag stuffing clerk and then to shipping and receiving.

Step 3

Now, it’s easier to determine how to better balance the operation (in this case questioning the need for the separate dropping and brushing steps), resulting in the future logical specification where the product goes from board assembly technician to bag stuffing clerk and then to shipping and receiving.

Step 4

Translate the future logical specification into the future physical specification for the solid base you need for continuous improvement, where individual processes for each job title are spelled out clearly, concisely, and completely.

Step 5

Continue to improve. Involve your employees, the Subject Matter Experts, in the analysis of every process. Determine the feasibility and potential of every suggestion. Implement changes that are going to increase profits, improve quality, reduce time to market, ensure customer satisfaction, or decrease costs. Maintain the structured specification.

Your structured specification is a dynamic document, changing as you change to continue to succeed and build profits in an ever-changing world.