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Strategies for Achieving Continuous Process Improvement

// October 16, 2017 //

Joe Gill is a senior manufacturing technology consultant for Paper-Less and Information Systems Engineering (ISE).  Joe will be speaking about smart manufacturing and continuous improvement at the upcoming FABTECH 2017 event taking place in Chicago at McCormick Place, November 6-9.  Information about Joe's educational presentation and other FABTECH educational sessions being led by Paper-Less experts is available at http://www.paperlessllc.com/company/events

If you've worked in manufacturing for a while, you may know how important continuous process improvement is in maintaining quality and efficiency. Then again, perhaps you're still new to how continuous improvement works. Maybe you need to find ways to make it work to improve functionality and stay more competitive.

To get started, you should learn the typical quality models used in the continuous improvement process. It usually involves four different steps, though also has three other distinct methods you've likely heard about.

Technology plays a big part in this, including proper performance management systems to make the above steps work successfully.

Let's take a look at the above steps and how using manufacturing execution system technology gives you real-time insights to improve productivity.

What is the PDCA Cycle?

Otherwise known as the "Plan, Do, Check, Act" cycle, the PDCA cycle is a system giving you four distinct steps in bringing continuous improvement. It's also known as the Deming Cycle, or Shewhart Cycle.

This all starts with the "Plan" stage where you identify an opportunity and then make changes to make it happen. Much of this only works if you gain real-time access to data, something only possible with good quality management software.

You'll find the same in the "Do" stage where you bring about change on a smaller scale. In order to make this happen, you have to test the change you're going to make and do small-scale studies. Performance management tools and technology is the best way to do this to bring more clarity.

Data becomes all the more important in the "Check" phase where you see what the difference was in the change you made. The "Act" phase is where production management software can take things even further for you.

Using Quality Management Systems to Enact Your Continuous Improvement

The "Act" stage is when you'll need quality management software, including ones using manufacturing execution system technology, or MES. With this feature, you're able to integrate with your ERP to monitor various activities in real-time.

You'll basically gain a wider view into the plan you put forth and how well everyone in your facility executes it. Overall, you'll see things from more than just the employee side. You're going to receive live data on the equipment you use to see how efficiently everything operates to complete a product.

Putting this together with your ERP allows you to see how well you're doing on cycle time and assure more timely production of the products you produce.

What Process Methods Should You Use for Continuous Improvement?

No doubt you've heard a lot about the Six Sigma method and how it increases performance and decreases process variation. It's a popular technique that good performance management systems can help improve.

Six Sigma is all about how well you control a process, so real-time data only adds to how well you can control it.

Even the Lean process is the same way. Lean manufacturing helps you get rid of waste, something easily guided along when live data, from lean manufacturing tools, shows you how productive you really are.

Another process called Total Quality Management works in an entirely different way, though aided considerably by effective software.

How Does Total Quality Management Help Customers?

The central goal of Total Quality Management is through achieving customer satisfaction. To make this work, everyone in your manufacturing facility have to contribute toward improving processes, products, services, and culture.

For complete success, you'll need access to strategy, data, and superior communication methods. All of these are easy to find in software using MES technology.

Here at Paper-Less, we've become a leader in digital production operations management software using technologies like Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES). Visit us to find out more about how our advanced MES software and services solutions can help your company achieve continuous improvement goals.

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