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3 Powerful Continuous Improvement Tools

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By Emilie A Lachance - July 28, 2018

Today’s food and beverage manufacturing businesses need to work at unprecedented scale and speed to remain profitable. This means finding efficiency boosts whenever possible and implementing best practices quickly and effectively.

While new technology can yield great benefits, this needs to be paired with people and organization-based Continuous Improvement tools and practices to get the best results.

Here are a few of the best tools in the Continuous Improvement toolbox:

Catchball

The main conceit behind catchball is a common one in continuous improvement: the more individuals who try and tackle a problem, the better the chance of a great solution. Catchball offers what is essentially a formalized version of this process meant to promote ease and efficiency.

The way it works is when a continuous improvement project is started, all aspects are defined. Background, pain points, objectives, and all other necessary metrics are documented clearly and concisely. With this blueprint, the project can be transferred from leader to leader until complete, in essence the project is the 'ball' and it's 'tossed' to the best team to move it forward at a given stage. This allows the team with the best experience and knowledge to handle the issue to which they are best suited, and keeps struggling teams from dragging on with a project they cannot complete effectively.

Gemba Walks

In Japanese, “Gemba” roughly translates to “The real place”, which acts as an elegant summary for this technique. Gemba Walks involve managers and supervisors traveling to actual plants to observe opportunities for improvement in the workplace. The walks bridge the gap in management levels, and allow face-to-face interaction with the people who have the best knowledge of how a real-life factory runs. By learning to correct many small inefficiencies, a company can enjoy far less capital loss over time.

However, to make Gemba Walks effective tools of continuous improvement they must be done with care. This means taking the time to visit the plant on different days of the week and during different hours to see how worker behavior changes with time. It is also important to not ask leading questions of the factory workers, but rather to leave assumptions at the door to ensure honest and accurate responses are received. Believing that the way dictated by the company is always the best in a sure way to defeat innovation.

Hoshin Kanri

Hoshin Kanri is another Japanese term that can be translated to mean either “Strategy Deployment” or “Direction Management”. In practice, it is a formalized system of company alignment using the ideas of continuous improvement as a guide. The objective is long term success, and to achieve this several things must be ensured:

  1. The whole organization must be centered on a few well-define goals
  2. The knowledge of these objectives and strategies must be universal throughout the company
  3. The leadership must play an active role in the continuous improvement process
  4. Lower-level employees must also take responsibility for the objectives of the company

While appearing strict and regimented, these rules actually allow creativity and communication to flow freely through all levels of a company.

With these continuous improvement tools and techniques being applied, companies will get greater value from initiatives such as Smart Factory Analytics.  At Worximity, we know that a full-organization structure is necessary to get the most out of our products, and we want to give our customers the best resources possible to maximize profitability. For further reading on continuous improvement tools, follow the link here.

 

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The Worximity Smart Food Factory solution is a low-cost hardware system that can be up and running in a few hours combined with an easy and intuitive yet powerful analytics dashboard that provides fast ROI to start and a roadmap to full-on IIoT success.

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