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What is Continuous improvement? Continuous Improvement is an ongoing process to enhance the product quality, services and manufacturing processes. It works on the assumption that further improvements are always possible. The objective is to increase quality and reduce wastage in quest of small improvements during the process. History of Continuous Improvement Japan was badly defeated in the World War II which led to instability of the nation. United States sent top specialists to support the nation to rebuild and re-establish itself. Dr W. Edwards Deming was sent to leverage his experience in minimizing US waste in war manufacture. He therefore, presented his advices to re-establish the developing industries. In the mid 1950’s, Dr Edwards started visiting Japan regularly. He taught businesses to concentrate on processes rather than outcomes. His main focus was concentrating on the hard work of everyone in the organization to constantly improve bottlenecks at each stage of production process. By 1970, most of the Japanese businesses had embraced Dr Edwards’s opinions. The most prominent of them was Toyota which initiated continuous improvement practices such as Just-In-time (JIT) and Total Quality Management (TQM). Theories, Models and Tools for Continuous Improvement   

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Kaizen: It is a philosophy that increases improvement in productivity as a gradual and methodical process. PDCA Cycle: The Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle is a management process which was promoted by Dr Edwards. It is used to implement continuous improvement in almost all the processes. Total Quality Management: TQM is the integration of all processes within an organization in order to achieve continuous improvement for the quality of goods and services. The objective however is to enhance customer satisfaction. Lean Manufacturing: This philosophy focuses on elimination of waste and includes Just-In-Time technique. Six Sigma: It is designed to eliminate errors and improve processes. SMAIC Model: Select, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control cycle is used for monitoring product quality and identifying any errors in the production process.

Continous Improvement Life Cycle The diagram on the right, illustrates the continuous improvement process that begins with assessing the problem, designing the improvement, implementing the improvement and evaluating result. 

Assess: Gather information on the areas where improvement is needed. Conduct surveys at all levels including customers, employees and competition. Always remember Kaizen 1




originates from the concept of dissatisfaction with the status quo, regardless of how good the existing state is. Design and Plan: Prioritize tasks while keeping it simple. Also strive for realistic and incremental change. Make sure the plan is clear in terms of concrete strategy/objectives, users support and is measurable. Implement: Share strategy with the partners and communicate the plan effectively. Encourage open and constructive criticism. Also develop plans and tools for monitoring metrics. Make sure guidance and support is present at each stage. Evaluate: Regularly evaluate goals and objectives using improvement metrics. Keep the measuring process simple, meaningful, quantifiable and always create a baseline for the metrics.

Key Success Factors Continuous improvement is a journey and not a destination. Clarity of objectives plays a vital role in this cycle. Align organizational objectives with continuous improvement objectives by empowering participants and making them feel a part of the system. Continuous improvement is a cultural change in the organization and cannot be implemented in isolation. Reference


History of Continuous Improvement  
History of Continuous Improvement  

Japan was badly defeated in the World War II which led to instability of the nation. United States sent top specialists to support the natio...