Manufacturers are faced with the challenge of increasing productivity while simultaneously reducing costs, and this can prove to be a difficult juggling act for even the most senior of professionals. To achieve these goals and develop their facility into a world-class entity, many maintenance and reliability experts are looking towards continuous improvement strategies for answers and insight.
Continuous improvement is the uninterrupted process of increasing productivity by identifying opportunities to make incremental changes in the manufacturing process that reduce waste. By reducing waste, production is streamlined, and efficiency is significantly increased.
Waste can be classified as any action or process that consumes facility resources but doesn’t contribute anything of value to the end customer. Eight common types of waste include:
Eliminating waste is a key component of any continuous improvement strategy and is a significant factor in increasing profitability. Selecting the right strategy for you and your facility will not only decrease waste, but improve product quality and add value for the customer.
Three popular continuous improvement strategies are Kaizen, Six Sigma and the Ohno Circle. While similar in their goals, each has its own unique perspective on how to achieve the desired results, and each comes with advantages and disadvantages that must be weighed against the needs of the facility.
Introduced to the West in 1986, Kaizen, a Japanese term meaning “change for the better,” is a two-part system that eliminates waste in the manufacturing process by improving a facility’s existing standardized processes and procedures. The two parts include:
By actively involving all employees, from the C-suite to the boots on the concrete, facilities can increase their productivity and efficiency, leading to higher profitability.
There are eight steps to Kaizen, which are:
As with any method of improvement, there are advantages and disadvantages that must be explored. For Kaizen, this includes:
Developed in 1986 by Motorola, Six Sigma is a combination of principles and methodologies that seek to improve product quality and decrease process variation by improving both the manufacturing and business processes of a facility.
Six Sigma closely follows the methodology of DMAIC, which believes that each process can be Defined, Measured, Analyzed, Improved and Controlled.
The five steps of Six Sigma, as defined through DMAIC, are:
While completing these steps, it’s important to keep in mind the five principles of Six Sigma, which are:
Some advantages and disadvantages of Six Sigma include:
Developed by Taiichi Ohno, creator of the Toyota Production Method, the Ohno Circle is a method of observation that seeks to identify waste in the manufacturing process and open lines of communication with others to resolve issues and eliminate the waste.
In the beginning, Ohno carried out this process by drawing an actual circle in a small area on the shop floor and telling a team member to stand in it for an undetermined amount of time. During this time, the team member was to observe everything that happened in this area. Ohno would periodically check in and ask thought-provoking questions about what was observed.
If the answer was not adequate, he would leave and return at another time, repeating the process until Ohno received the answer he was looking for. This process could last an hour, or it could take the whole day. In this way, he was teaching his team members the discipline to slow down and observe what their minds had become blind to in an effort to become actively engaged with their surroundings and identify overlooked waste.
Today, the Ohno Circle proves to be more of a cultural mindset shift designed to develop team members into leaders capable of taking ownership of different processes to ensure they are streamlined and devoid of waste. Although largely a mental activity, according to AME, the idea of “standing in a circle is [to take] the time to understand reality before acting.” To do this effectively, there are five steps that must be completed.
While this strategy has evolved, the principles behind the method still hold true and prove to be an effective manner of creating awareness and ownership in facility employees. By learning to observe and evaluate everything in a focused manner, they can devote 100% of their mental strengths to identifying waste in their area and developing innovative solutions that positively impact the entire facility. By slowing down at the right moments, we can eliminate waste, speed up our processes and increase production efficiency.
Advantages and disadvantages to consider with the Ohno Circle method include:
Continuous improvement strategies have the ability to significantly improve an organization’s profitability by evaluating processes and procedures and removing the waste within them. Although different in execution, Kaizen, Six Sigma and the Ohno Circle all have the same mission — to eliminate waste and increase efficiency and productivity. Broken down to their core, these three tactics focus on:
Kaizen: Eliminates manufacturing waste by improving existing processes. Doesn’t specify how waste is identified.
Six Sigma: Increases product quality by improving manufacturing and business processes. Identifies waste through data.
Ohno Circle: Eliminates waste in manufacturing and business processes through examinations, increased team member ownership and creative problem solving. Identifies waste through observation.
By selecting the right continuous improvement strategy for your facility, you not only develop your teams into world-class facility members, but you transform how your business operates and create an environment of positive growth that can last for generations to come.