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Continuous Improvement - A Corporate Culture to Implement

By: Berenice Mengo

mardi, avril 11 2017

Continuous Improvement

One may see continuous improvement (CI) as a punctual event at some point in the life of the company. A project to implement, a training to attend, and there you go - you’ve reached your continuous improvement goal of the year. For specialists such as Michel Labrecque, CMP-Advanced Mechanical Solutions’ Human Resources Vice-President, CI is way more than that: it’s a corporate culture that more companies need to activate for their own benefit. In fact, CI is a must in a world where technology changes the world at a speed never experienced before. Here’s what Mr. Labrecque had to say about a concept.

What is continuous improvement?

Kaizen, the Japanese word meaning “change for better”, is the reference word used to name CI. This has been the case since Toyota, the Japanese automotive manufacturer, revolutionized the industrial world with its Toyota Production System (TPS) - which largely inspired the Lean Manufacturing philosophy.

A continuous improvement process is the constant work of improvement in order to enhance products, services, and operating processes. Kaizen can be implemented on a regular basis as mini-projects. This is the incremental approach. CI can also be applied at once in one global implementation. This is the “breakthrough” method. Furthermore, any element that directly impacts the client is constantly evaluated in order to be improved.

Only Companies That Strive for Excellence Will Survive

It’s OK to fail! Learning from previous mistakes and improving for the better is a step towards success. Do nothing and your company will disappear. Companies that were about to collapse are most likely the ones that become champions of CI. They know the true value of CI and often take bold steps to succeed. Some of these companies have pioneered innovative ways to stay alive and competitive in fierce markets.

Continuous Improvement Is Cultural and Technical

CI is made of 2 parts: the cultural part and the technical one. These parts are articulated in the following:


Strategic Planning

A clear mission and vision will help you better plan your CI projects. Your company’s values have to support your efforts. Quantifiable objectives and a follow-up of your indicators will ensure you’re on the right path.

The leadership of the upper management

Sometimes it happens that a company’s leadership is the one blocking CI efforts. This shouldn’t be the case as upper management should be held as a model for the rest of the organization. Changing for the better also means patience. You’ll have to be passionate about CI to better communicate your vision and ultimately make it a reality within your organization.

The employees’ engagement

Your employees are your most valuable asset. You can’t succeed in a CI process unless your personnel are as passionate about it as you are. Their engagement will multiply your results.

Constant Communication for More Engagement

Constant communication is a way to efficiently inform and motivate your personnel. While some use whiteboards and paper to display daily progress data, others use digital boards and live data with instant updates. Driving engagement from your personnel provides constant top-down and bottom-up communication.

Value-added process

Your Kaizen effort should be integrated into a value chain for you to eliminate wastes and be more productive at every level of your organization. Being more productive will please your clients and thereby make you more competitive.

KPIs and Continuous Improvement Projects

Below is a list of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). As they measure the success of your company in specific areas, one can initiate CI projects to enhance the company’s score in those fields:

  • Health and Safety

  • Productivity

  • Quality

  • On-Time Delivery (ODT)

  • Profitability

Customer’s satisfaction

Your customers are at the core of all your Kaizen projects. You need to know them as well as their needs in order to better satisfy them with good prices, optimal quality, and great service. CI is all about pleasing your clients.

Applying and maintaining these practices will help you get the most out of your CI efforts.

From tribal to visual knowledge with VKS! Learn more about a continuous improvement success .


How's Your OEE?

Invented by Seiichi Nakajima, the pioneering father of the TPM (Total Productive Maintenance system), OEE (Overall equipment effectiveness) is a measurement that informs you about the effectiveness of your manufacturing operations. If your company has at least 85% OEE, it’s considered a world-class enterprise. This is actually an achievable rate as there are manufacturers that have over 90% OEE, Mr. Labrecque confirms. OEE is a great reason to trigger improvement.

Adopt the 5S

5S is a workplace organization method that is inspired by the 5 Japanese words Seiri (sort), Seiton (set in order), Seiso (shine), Seiketsu (standardize), and Shitsuke (sustain). Developed in Japan, 5S is one of the flagship techniques of Just in time manufacturing, also known as the Toyota Production System (TPS), which deeply inspired the Lean Manufacturing philosophy.

Today's Best Practices Involve Continuous Improvement

CI often involves technology, which is inseparable from progress. Implementing CI projects means aligning your company to world-class quality.

The Kaizen Toolbox

Kaizen has a variety of lean production methods such as VSM (Value stream mapping), Poka-yoke (Japanese expression meaning "mistake-proofing”), SMED (Single-Minute Exchange of Dies), A3 problem solving, or standardization. Equip your team with the right tools!

Concerning standardization, VKS - Visual Knowledge Share - is a multilingual tool that helps users capture and standardize their best practices in a digital environment, ensuring compliance and quality in production. As VKS supports lean manufacturers with a digital work instruction solution, it also offers live data, instant communication for quality management, and productivity monitoring.

Equip your personnel with the best continuous improvement tool! Book a free demo.

Continuous improvement is more than a single project. It’s a corporate culture that provides long-lasting benefits. Mr. Labrecque has witnessed companies that have made the switch to permanent CI activities and that are now experiencing significant productivity successes. Let CI get the best out of your company!


Michel Labrecque Vice-president - Human Resources CMP-Advanced Mechanical Solutions