The Continuous Improvement model includes a set of steps that aim to support long-term growth and optimize processes for success. For facilities that use 5S Methodology, continuous improvement falls under the fifth step—sustain. However, Continuous Improvement methods are ideal for any facility, whether they follow Lean and 5S initiatives, or not. The key to this method is to make incremental changes and look for signs of success before moving forward or implementing site-wide. Follow these key steps when implementing a Continuous Improvement model in your facility.
1) Create a Plan
Processes shouldn’t be updated or changed without a plan, and this method is no different. Decide what success looks like by setting specific, measurable goals. Perhaps you’re aiming to streamline workflows with floor marking tape and clear visual cues to achieve a ten percent decrease in wasted materials. For safety goals, maybe your aim is to reduce slip, trip, and fall injuries by fifteen percent by updating visual cue colors from blue to orange. During the planning phase, consider a specific, measurable goal, determine the steps necessary to reach the goal, and decide how you’ll gauge success.
2) Implement Small-Scale Changes
A Continuous Improvement model aims to build processes and create new habits, so changes should be incremental. Perfect one aspect of your plan before moving to the next. If there are too many changes, too quickly, it will make it difficult to determine what’s working for your facility—and which changes may not be creating a positive impact. Alternatively, when changes are small, it’s easier to pinpoint which updates work, and which fall short.
3) Evaluate Success
An audit process helps to measure impact and outcomes, but communication is key in pinpointing what pieces aren’t working. Assure team members that the process is fluid and changes aren’t necessarily final. Provide a clear solution for employees to offer feedback, like an online submission form or comment card, or regularly solicit opinions while on the work floor. When seeking feedback, consider all levels: Management and leads to the employees who must follow the procedures daily. Through audits and communication, you can determine what worked, what fell short, and which next steps make the most sense.
If the updates are not successful overall, take note of which aspects of the plan didn’t work, which had limited success, and how you can create new solutions based on what you know of the failed implementation.
- Were some floor markings damaged from heavy traffic or freezing temperatures? A heavy-duty industrial floor marking tape designated for high-traffic areas or low temperatures may produce better results.
- Did employees have a difficult time remembering the steps in a new process? Look at ways you can simplify the process, or use clear visual cues and signage to provide reminders of the steps.
- Was an update generally successful, but employees are pushing back? Gather feedback from all employees to see if there’s a consensus about what’s not working, and use the input to adjust the plan to earn staff buy-in, or provide solutions to target the employees’ concerns.
4) Implement Successful Initiatives Site-Wide
If your changes are successful in one department or workspace, it may be time to implement the new policies elsewhere in the facility. Scaling up can bring the new processes to other departments in a calculated way so any errors, issues, or snags are caught quickly. For example, updating a warehouse picking method may work well in some sections but not others. Consider the big picture when expanding new procedures or systems to other locations.
5) Keep Improving
A Continuous Improvement model means the initial changes aren’t the end of the process. Auditing success and making additional, incremental changes improves efficiency, removes redundancies, and ensures your facility runs smoothly. Not every plan will work—and processes may not remain effective. Auditing processes and updating as necessary as part of a Continuous Improvement model helps streamline workflows, promote facility safety, and trim where necessary. To keep improving:
- Scale up: Expand to implement recent, productive initiatives on a larger scale, but consider which departments or areas may need another option.
- Update where you don’t succeed: Regular audits—weekly, monthly, every six months, or annually—may turn up unsuccessful initiatives, which you may decide to replace or abandon altogether.
- Request feedback: Ask for feedback from all levels to determine which new goals to set.
- Set new goals: To promote growth and positive change within the facility, go back to step one to target new initiatives within the facility.
Update methods, streamline for efficiency, and increase productivity in your warehouse, production floor, or industrial facility with a Continuous Improvement model. Incremental changes to processes mean employees are more likely to comply with the new rules, so you are more likely to meet your production or safety goals. For more information on 5S/Lean methodology, explore our Resource Center.