Process improvement methodologies offer time-tested tools and techniques for streamlining research, development, manufacturing, and business processes. One of the most valuable benefits of these methodologies, along with the specific techniques used to implement them, is that they consider each action necessary to improve a process. Use one of these frameworks to guide your team through identifying problems and their root causes, as well as implementing solutions and ensuring their success.
Process Improvement Methodologies
Many of these methodologies originated in manufacturing; they’re now used in multiple job functions to improve how companies do business.
- Six Sigma is a rigid mindset that sees room for process improvement in all aspects of business and uses technical evaluation to deliver fewer variations and, therefore, higher quality.
- Lean Thinking prioritizes process improvement techniques that eliminate waste in order to better utilize every type of resource.
- Lean Six Sigma combines the desires to reduce waste and variations into an ultra-streamlined process with results that benefit both end users and the company itself.
- Total Quality Management (TQM) approaches improvements with quality in mind. This methodology prioritizes customer satisfaction and encourages all employees to work toward this goal.
- Just in Time closely manages inputs so that resources are not held up in parts, ingredients, or products nor is a customer waiting for the products they need.
- Theory of Constraints identifies and removes the most pressing barriers to improvement.
Tools and Techniques
Common process improvement methodologies provide a framework for bettering business processes. These specific tools and techniques are derived from the concepts those methodologies provide.
- 5S—which stands for sort, straighten, shine, standardize, and sustain—can be used as part of multiple process improvement methodologies.
- Six Sigma professionals improve existing processes by defining, measuring, analyzing, improving, and controlling in what’s called the DMAIC Process.
- Kaizen Methodology uses a slow and steady approach to continuous improvement.
- In order to track and visualize ongoing improvements, some teams rely on Kanban.
- The PDCA Cycle encourages teams to repeatedly plan, do, check, and act in order to continuously improve processes.
- Visualize your suppliers, inputs, processes, outputs, and customers with a SIPOC Diagram to identify inefficiencies.
- Eliminate steps that fail to add value to your process with Value Stream Mapping.
Automation’s Role in Continuous Improvement
Automation has a place in every stage of the innovation lifecycle, including evaluation and improvement. Many process improvement methodologies require the critical thinking and problem solving only humans are capable of. However, there are opportunities to further streamline processes with the help of automation.
Automation removes some chance of human error, especially during the repetitive tasks necessary for testing and documenting improvements. The process of comparing post-improvement data to baseline data is an opportunity for automation. Software can also sort through massive data sets to identify potential solutions based on existing inventions.