New Benefits of Continuous Improvement
It’s been a week since the last day of this year’s Continuous Improvement Conference, presented by PRINTING United Alliance in Scottsdale, and some of the concepts I learned there are still processing. Still finding their own way to benefit the processes I use. And that concept: that it can benefit me, is one of the greatest values of CI. I’m not a printer, I’m a writer, but the concepts still apply.
Benefits of CI
In many cases, conference presenters focus on the benefits of lean, whether through formalized plans that use, for instance, Toyota’s manufacturing approach as a touchstone, or through less formal approaches where they address the issues they find. Either way, the benefits can be profound.
While the goal of many companies seeking the benefits of continuous improvement is to examine and adjust their processes, looking at materials and how they are managed, jobs and how they are done, wastes and how they are addressed; others use the same approaches to maximize capacity in their operations, support their efforts toward sustainability, even attract and retain employees. Those committed to continuous improvement understand lean is not a task to be completed, but rather an approach that can be applied to numerous areas of focus.
One of the more compelling benefits of lean or continuous improvement approaches is the way they can serve to build and sustain strong workplace cultures. It addresses key factors, such as communication, responsibility, and accountability, that are suffused not only into our workplaces, but into our lives in general. The result of this work is better performance from employees, better communication with customers, and deeper connections with family and friends.
New Directions, Considerations
To help demonstrate the many ways continuous improvement can benefit businesses, I’m interested to see direct examples of how continuous improvement and lean approaches can be applied to three key areas.
Many process improvement discussions treat technology as if it is static, which is far from accurate. All segments of the printing industry have been profoundly affected by digital printing technologies, bringing myriad benefits including less-complex processes, minimized human interaction, and new opportunities. The discussion of technology adoption as process improvement – on a grand scale – would be illuminating.
Thorough the use of continuous improvement practices, I would like to learn more about how companies are working to improve diversity, equity and inclusion. To be successful, these efforts, often built on good intentions, require a thoughtful approach as much as it requires a genuine commitment. Amid the current challenges of finding and keeping great employees, the task of maintaining a diverse, inclusive workforce is paramount.
Finally, it would be inspiring to see how these practices can be used in outward-facing ways, particularly how companies can become better partners to their customers, and better stewards for the communities within which they reside. Positive examples of how companies can (and do) benefit their communities and continue to do so in better and more focused ways, would add valuable fuel to community involvement efforts of others.
The basic concept of continuous improvement is one of both intelligence and humility. Simply put, it is humble to accept that space for improvement exists, always; it is intelligent to understand that one can minimize that space, but never truly eliminate it. There’s always a bit more to be done.