5 Essential Steps for a Continuously Improving Maintenance Plan
Define. Identify. Select. Implement. Evaluate. They may not seem like anything more than verbs on the surface. Put together, however, they’re the ingredients for a powerful recipe for improvement within your facilities. There’s likely room for improvement throughout many aspects of a business — including within your maintenance approach. These five universal steps are exactly what you need to capitalize on those opportunities.
The roadmap to better maintenance
The secret to continuous improvement is creating a continuum: something that constantly reinforces betterment, even after improvement. The five steps in this process focus specifically on establishing a feedback loop.
- Define the process or problem: Map it out to fundamentally define the process or problem and to see areas rife with improvement opportunities.
- Identify areas of opportunity: Look at where waste occurs and why. Generate a list of potential improvement options or alternatives.
- Select improvements and goals: Take your understanding of the process and set goals for how you want to see it improved.
- Implement improvements: Deploy your new process and track measurable improvements. Document everything!
- Evaluate the results: Look at measurables to determine the level of improvement you were able to achieve and why.
The unspoken sixth step is simple: Go back to Step 1. It doesn’t matter if it’s a new process or one that’s been refined again and again. The purpose of continuous improvement is to remain continuous; the pursuit of perfection is unfailing.
Mastering the steps takes time
There may be five “simple” steps to continuous process improvement, but within each step is a new mastery to learn. Anyone familiar with lean manufacturing philosophy will find it familiar. Mastering continuous process improvement means mastering the variables that comprise each step of the continuum.
The best way to make the transition is to look at the core five principles of lean. Uncoincidentally, these five pillars line up perfectly with the tenets of continuous process improvement:
- Define value
- Map value stream
- Create flow
- Establish pull
- Pursue perfection
The concept is one and the same: Establish a process that feeds back into itself. Lean is about doing things as efficiently as possible. To do that, you must pursue perfection. To achieve perfection, you need a way of continually assessing and improving your processes and practices. It’s a small leap from the five pillars of lean to the five steps of continuous process improvement.
The elusive “culture of improvement”
A funny thing happens when continuous improvement becomes the focus of an industry. Employees begin to hold themselves to the standard of continuous improvement. Following the five steps becomes second nature and often, habit. This results in genuine effort and engagement in problem-solving situations and improvements in accountability, leadership, and engagement.
A culture of improvement is one of empowerment. Make the five steps to improvement central and encourage employees to embrace them. Reward improvement, support self-guided initiatives, and recognize effort even when it doesn’t correlate with measurable improvement.
The culture of improvement will naturally follow implementation of the five steps. Fostering the pursuit of perfection through a guided process with measurable results is the foundation of that culture.