Continual improvement (also referred to as continuous improvement) is an important aspect of management systems in general inclusive of quality management systems. This article considers the application of the continual improvement principles specifically to quality management systems; quality management principles and how they apply to Australian businesses are important because they allow organisations to continually evaluate and improve their processes, products and services.
Known globally as ‘Kaizen’, continual improvement process, was created to enhance Japanese industrial processes by cutting costs and enhancing quality. Kaizen is a fundamental idea that global organisations currently employ at the individual, team, and company levels. Some businesses may apply it as a separate idea, although it is most commonly incorporated with businesses that use Lean and Agile methods.
Importance of Continual Improvement of Quality Management Systems
Technology and innovation are progressing faster than ever before. An organisation and its employees will rapidly fall behind if they cling to the known, tried, and tested ways that have always worked. Adopting a continual improvement process approach will set your company on a new, more successful path. This can lead to increased efficiency, cost savings, customer satisfaction, and competitive advantage.
The principle of continual improvement is central to both Lean and Agile approaches. Continual improvement is woven throughout the Seven Principles of Lean Development. Building Quality In and Reducing Waste, for example, necessitate a philosophy of constant development. It appears in Agile concepts such as iterative development and reduced feedback loops.
Additionally, many Australian organisations are required to adhere to quality management standards such as ISO 9001, which require a commitment to continual improvement. Implementing a continual improvement culture can also foster a positive work environment and employee engagement.
PDCA Model for Continual Improvement
PDCA, which stands for Plan-Do-Check-Act, is the commonly implemented model to boost continual improvement in Quality management systems.
All organisations can benefit by implementing the following four processes:
It is the initial stage wherein the emphasis is on describing the problem and devising a solution that will be tested by asking questions given below:
- What exactly is the scope?
- What are the risks and opportunities and actions to address them?
- What is the goal?
- What is the best method for achieving the desired result?
- This involves forming a team and devising a timetable.
This stage can be used to carry out a comprehensive plan or to deploy a pilot solution on a lesser scale. In any case, this is an opportunity to try something new and discover if and how it works. The idea here is to document the process stages and gather data and feedback along the way.
This stage offers your employees and organisation a chance to research the chosen technique and compare the outcomes to your planning expectations.
One must analyse the technique by asking the following questions:
- Was the strategy successful or effective?
- Did everything go as planned? What is your reasoning?
- What performed well and what didn’t?
Now that you’ve included the previous phases’ knowledge and skills and input, it’s time to completely execute the new solution. Remember that this is neither the ultimate solution nor the only way. Instead, it becomes the new standard against which future advancements will be measured.
Mostly, the significance of continual improvement is found in what a company does after going through the phases indicated above. When enhancements are made to a process in a typical company context, such improvements become “the way things are,” not to be questioned until something goes wrong. Every advancement in continual improvement technique becomes the new baseline for the next.
Implementation of PDCA Model
While the PDCA cycle is simple, and the value of the continual improvement is evident, how do you practise in an organisation that isn’t presently using it or is unfamiliar with Lean and Agile methodologies?
Organisations use continual improvement in a variety of methods and to varying degrees. It requires a significant commitment to embed the approach into the basis of an organisation, but as previously said, it does not have to be applied on a big scale to be helpful. It might start on a modest scale, with one team or department, and then spread to other sections of the organisation.
Businesses can include continual improvement in their daily activities, or you organise monthly ‘Rapid Improvement Events’ to focus on business process areas that need attention.
Benefits of Continual Improvement for Australian businesses
The benefits of continual improvement of business processes and Quality Management may be exponential.
Following are some of the top benefits organisations can enjoy by implementing continual improvement:
Daily work processes chores such as filling out paperwork and running reports might annoy employees as it shall may take a lot of time and energy. Surveys have discovered that employees of an organisation work for an average of 520 hours per year on repetitive tasks that can be automated.
Hence, it is essential to replace spreadsheets and systems with limited capabilities, such as an access database, and opt for automated process enhancement tools like Lahebo. (please define Lahebo)
This will reduce time and enhance productivity as well as the enthusiasm of the employees.
2. Employee satisfaction
Team members who aren’t interested in losing time or money are more likely to be motivated by well-developed business procedures. Continual improvement of a quality management system will help in the elimination of time-consuming, repetitive processes that consume valuable working hours and brainpower as well.
Furthermore, it will be easy for the employees of an organisation to focus on job responsibilities that are important to them rather than looking for papers and manually inputting data.
Smoother operations result in happier staff, which leads to increased production and profitability.
Additionally, employees that focus on enhancing the company feel more personally successful, which leads to their remaining longer at the organisation and creating more meaningful achievements.
3. Reduced risk
There are limited controls in manual systems, which might lead to fraud and human mistakes.
Non-IT employees can manage data input jobs but are unaware of storage and backup best practices.
Furthermore, the manual transferring of data amongst systems by employees can cause errors that take hours to fix.
Hence, it is essential to implement a robust ISO 9001 quality management system which also has an automated risk management system like the one offered by Lahebo.
Additionally, continual improvement in quality management systems will offer many benefits to companies and their employees.
Continual improvement in quality management systems and the business process can help employees and organisations highlight operations to automate, decrease human error, and implement extra security measures to secure organisation data.
Compliance is a perpetual source of concern for Australian businesses. Organisations that do not have a flexible framework in place to manage end-to-end compliance risk could incur unanticipated fines.
Organisations may comprehensively record all compliance-related procedures, policies, and internal controls with the assistance of a third-party consultant like the ones from Anitech.
By building compliance into your new business processes, enterprises can create transparency and quickly implement regulatory requirements, preventing delays in compliance and fines.
Anitech’s experienced quality management systems consultants not only can help you with the implementation of a robust quality management system but can also help your organisation in planning and implementing continual improvement.
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