What is Continuous Process Improvement?

Continuous Process Improvement (CPI) is the application of various analysis tools (such as Lean and Six Sigma) to incrementally make changes to business processes that will improve one or more of the following: Improve Process effectiveness, improve quality, reduce lead times, reduce cost, and improve customer satisfaction. The improvements can be implemented in small steps or large leap ahead changes. The importance of monitoring processes is to make sure changes are working and to help identity future opportunities for improvement. This is key to making improvement a continuous part of your way of doing business.

What is Lean?

Lean is a collection of principles, methods and tools designed to reduce waste in any process, resulting in improvements to time, cost, and quality.

How does lean work?

Surprisingly, when most processes are analyzed, only 5% of activities add value for the customer, which means that 95% are either necessary non-value adding activities or waste. By clearly defining value for a specific service or product from the customer’s perspective, non-value activities and waste can be targeted for removal. Eliminating waste is the greatest potential source of improvement in process performance and customer service. Once waste has been identified, processes are redesigned to allow service, information or product to flow through the new process without interruption.

What are signs of waste and non-value added activities in a process?

What is Six Sigma?

A disciplined data-driven approach and methodology for eliminating defects by controlling the variability in the process. The ultimate objective is to drive toward a process that is centered at a mean that is 6 standard deviations (Six Sigma) from the nearest specification limit. Such a process has a very small probability of having any defects as long as the process variability remains under control.

What is Lean Six Sigma?

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Lean Six Sigma (LSS) is a methodology that combines the Lean approach and the Six Sigma approach into one methodology. This approach seeks to improve process by eliminating waste and non-value added activities and utilizes process variability reduction to eliminate defects. LSS is typically a team approach that follows the DMAIC Process. (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control) To be the most effective, the LSS tools should be tailored to the problem and the timeframe required to implement improvements.

For more information on training opportunities and assistance with applying Continuous Process Improvement tools contact the ASC Continuous Process Improvement Division, AMSAS-OPC.

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Transportation wastes time and energy and creates a batch type process instead of a more efficient continuous process. Excessive transportation also increases waiting time and increases the opportunity for damage to products.

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A major sign of waste in a process is a lot of Work In Process (WIP) sitting around. When items stack up in between process steps it is a strong indicator of waste. Excessive inventory takes up space, clutters work areas, and ties up resources in unfinished products not usable to customers.

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Waste of motion is the movement within a process rather than movement of material between process steps (transportation) mentioned above. If a mechanic is running back to his tool box or to the tool room frequently there is a lot of waste of motion in the process. If the workspace is cluttered or disorganized and locating the needed tool or part takes time there is a waste of motion by the worker as he wanders around the work space to locate needed items. Keeping frequently used tools and parts within easy reach is a key objective to reducing waste of motion.

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If people are waiting for the next item to work on, a special tool to be delivered, a part to be delivered, a piece of information, a form to be delivered, or a driver to move a vehicle there is waste in the process. Time waiting is time not spent on value added service to the customer.

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When we do work that the customer has not explicitly asked for this is known as over-processing. Are we mounting radios in vehicles that customers immediately remove and store off the vehicle? Are we preparing 1000 meals a day in a dining facility that almost never serves more than 800 meals a day? Understanding the customer’s needs and how they utilize the product or service we provide is the key to eliminating Over-processing waste.

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Most people understand defects are a source of waste. However, the cost and effects of defects are commonly underestimated. Defects typically require defect reports, rework, and travel to a customer’s site to correct. In addition, defects take manpower, tools and workspace away from the normal production/service line. This results in delays and schedule slippages resulting in unhappy customers.

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