What is continuous improvement?
Continuous improvement is gradual, incremental improvement made to operations. Rather than making large, one-off investments to upgrade facilities, such as a new production line, continuous improvement emphasizes the benefit of a series of smaller, more gradual changes.
Continuous improvements can help avoid the risks associated with major upgrades. While each individual incremental upgrade is likely to only have a minor impact on overall performance, over time, the cumulative impact of the small improvements can mount up.
Dimensions that can be improved with continuous improvement
While continuous improvement is most associated with manufacturing improvements, there are numerous areas throughout a firm that can benefit from continuous improvement:
Some of the key areas where continuous improvement can improve manufacturing operations include:
- Reducing defects in products
- Reducing wastage throughout the firm
- Increasing the speed of production
Customer service and after-sales support
- The speed to answer customer requests
- The proportion of customers that are able to find answers directly or via chatbots
- The percentage of customers able to get answers the first time that they contact support
- The average time it takes to conduct an activity
- The lead time that it takes to go from start to finish of a process
Final thoughts: Develop your continuous improvement mindset
A continual improvement process involves identifying ways that the operations can be improved throughout the firm. This requires a mindset for continuous improvement, drawing from the input of employees, with the support of upper management.