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Process improvement strategies


Many companies fail to identify problems that are causing them to lose millions of dollars in waste. Waste is a direct result of poor quality and system failures. Businesses have recognized that waste is causing them a handful of other problems so they have turned to process improvement strategies to combat waste. Here are some process improvement strategies:

  • Six Sigma

  • Lean manufacturing

  • Visual control

  • Total Quality Management (TQM)

Six Sigma

Six sigma was developed by Motorola to help reduce defects and eliminate waste. Six sigma focuses on reducing the error ratio to get as close to perfect as possible. When you hear the term six sigma, you will often hear some other process improvement philosophies that relate to it. The DMAIC and DMADV methodologies are the most popular six sigma methods. The six sigma process also uses a belt system to reduce wastes at the company. You will have employees that spend 100 percent of their time on six sigma while others will only work on projects and creating a new mindset where everyone is focused on eliminating waste.

Lean Manufacturing

Lean manufacturing is "focused on getting the right things, to the right place, at the right time, and in the right quantity to achieve perfect work flow while minimizing waste and being flexible and able to change." Similar to six sigma, lean manufacturing looks for ways to eliminate waste by taking steps to expose existing problems.

Successful implementation will expose the quality problems which exist within the company and you will identify how to reduce the waste the problems are causing. For some companies, the focus on waste reduction only looks at one small problem at a time instead of a system-wide approach. The success of lean manufacturing lies completely upon your managers and their ability to successful incorporate the program.

Visual Control

Visual control is a process improvement strategy designed to help increase efficiency and effectiveness by making things visible. Visual signals are used to show employees when they are out of stock with an item. Normally the visual signals that are used come in the forms of kanban or heijunka boxes or colored clothing (if you are a team). Visual control makes things more effective by simply making things visible to employees. It has been proven that when things are visible, they remain in our conscious minds. Visual control effectively communicates the information that is needed for decisions to be made. This helps to keep inventory at customer-demand so you do not have wasted money sitting on the shelves.

Total Quality Management (TQM)

Total Quality Management (TQM) is another process improvement strategy that focuses on improvement throughout all company processes. In short, employees are trained to become aware of how to improve the manufacturing process. They also need to look for ways to improve other aspects of the company like building relationships with suppliers, meeting the customer's quality expectations, and setting a higher level of quality within the company.

In order for TQM to be effective, everyone at the company must participate and look for ways to exceed the customer's expectations. If a product has a defect, employees are taught to look for what is causing the defect and prevent it from occurring in the future instead of just temporarily fixing the problem.

All process improvement strategies are a complete change in the way employees think.

Employees are taught to hold the customer expectations at a higher level. Companies are trained to look for ways to boost employee morale. Process improvement changes within the organization will increase productivity and lower the defect ratio to achieve perfection.

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