What’s Holding Your Business Back From Continuous Improvement?

A continuous improvement strategy is something every manufacturer should embrace. As times get tough — and the world continues to suffer from the COVID-19 pandemic — assessing and improving operations with innovation grows more urgent. For highly competitive sectors, it’s already an imperative.

But launching a continuous improvement strategy isn’t a minor initiative. Even when manufacturers do their best to establish a culture of improvement and create strategic processes, they frequently fall short. Why? Some of the biggest barriers to continuous improvement include:

  • The wrong KPIs. Measuring things correctly is an obvious first step, and measuring correctly requires the right metrics. Poor or inaccurate KPIs hinder your continuous improvement strategy by building it atop the wrong data. Bad data makes it impossible to make good decisions about company operations or measure the improvement of targeted efforts. The right metrics are key to solid information and better decisions, but too many companies aren’t benchmarking their strategic efforts in meaningful ways. Evaluate and adjust KPIs to stay informed and make sound decisions from the start.
  • Poor communication between stakeholders. Getting everyone on the same page can also be a challenge. It’s essential to foster good communication between stakeholders. Communication is one of the first hurdles you’ll face when crafting a continuous improvement strategy. Something as simple as scheduling a weekly or monthly meeting with all the relevant stakeholders helps ensure everyone understands current improvement projects.
  • Poor process insight. It’s hard to improve processes without full comprehension. Companies will struggle to implement  continuous improvement if management is unaware of efficiency issues, or the specific steps involved in a production process. Making big changes without a full understanding of company processes can cause more upset than improvement.
    Man in manufacturing facility looking at an iPad
  • Lack of employee buy-in. Employees comfortable with current company operations might prove resistant to continuous improvement strategies. The strategy won’t take root if employees aren’t motivated and engaged. What’s the best way to engage employees in a continuous improvement strategy? Emphasize a culture of growth and change for the better, set strong goals based on KPIs, and incentivize professional development.
  • Poor governance. Who’s in charge of the strategy? Establish a clear leadership hierarchy of qualified and principled project managers to supervise projects from development to their highest level of culmination. As manufacturers approach a continuous improvement strategy, they should be keenly aware of their organizational approach. Choose management with a vested interest in ongoing optimization and equipped to identify, plan, and execute initiatives.
  • Fear of change. The fear of falling behind often leads management and employees to focus on short-term productivity rather than developing long-term solutions. Completing more tasks in a shorter period is generally a good thing, but short-term productivity goals can cause distractions and slow — or prevent — the development of strategic initiatives which will improve workflow and product quality in the long term.

In manufacturing, if you’re not innovating, you’re stagnating. In 2021, producers face significant obstacles. Adaptability and innovation are critical for maintaining relevance. Continuous improvement strategies prepare businesses for ongoing uncertainty. Assess any barriers blocking your company’s continuous improvement strategy, and tackle them one by one to boost your chances for success in 2021 and beyond.

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