Continuous improvement processes are procedures that see the improvement of products, services, and processes. The processes are in the perspective of the circular process of planning, implementing, measuring and taking a corrective measure if the results do not represent an improvement (Bhuiyan, & Baghel, 2005). Among the methods of continuous improvement, processes are total quality management, lean manufacturing, six sigma, and the theory of constraints.
The notion of total quality management was propounded by Edward Deming in the 1950s. The concept has more to it than controlling the quality of the product only (Nahmias, & Cheng, 2009). The concept also coordinates the attempt aimed at the improvement of the satisfaction of the customer, increasing the participation of the employee, strengthening the partnerships of the supplier, and facilitating the atmosphere of an organization of continuous quality improvement. Any corporation that adopts this technique benefits in areas such as customer satisfaction and focus, job security, productivity, employee satisfaction, the value of shareholder and stakeholder, and the market image of the corporation among others (Nahmias, & Cheng, 2009). The total quality management toolset has the following tools: cause and effect diagram, check sheet, control chart, flowchart, histogram, pareto chart and scatter chart.
The basic approach of Lean manufacturing is on identifying and removing steps that are wasteful and do not add any value to the end product. The idea of Lean manufacturing was first developed by Henry Ford on his Model T automobile, but it was not flexible (Nave, 2002). Later on, Taiichi Ohno of Toyota developed the idea, and it became a success making Toyota one of the most profitable manufacturing companies in the world. Furthermore, the concept adopts a customer-value focus which entails questions such as how much is the customer willing to pay? customers want a quality product, and they are willing to pay if the corporation can meet the needs. The customers are not to pay for defects and the extra cost of having large inventories in simple terms the waste. This approach helps a corporation in improving its visual management and quality, reducing the workforce, increasing efficiency, eliminating problems, and ensuring participation of the whole corporation among others (Nave, 2002). The following principles are used in the implementation of operational improvement: value, value stream, flow, pull, seek perfection.
Six Sigma started as a statistically-based method in 1986 to reduce variation in electronic manufacturing processes in Motorola Inc. in USA (Nave, 2002). The approach is data-driven, disciplined, and a methodology that is used in the elimination of defects in any process from goods to service and from manufacturing to transactions. For a corporation six sigma improves customer loyalty, it assists employees in managing their time, reducing the cycle time, strategic planning, the motivation of employees among others. Six Sigma utilizes the DMAIC which is an acronym for Define, measure, analyze, improve, and control (Nave, 2002).
Theory of constraint has the following impact on a corporation reduction in cycle-time, reduction in inventory, increase in profit, increase in revenue, and on-time delivery among others (Nave, 2002). This theory was pioneered by Eliyahu M. Goldratt in his book titled The Goal. The theory uses a scientific approach to identify the most important limiting factor that hinders a corporation from attaining its goal and then it systematically improves that constraint until it is no longer a limiting factor (Nave, 2002). For operational improvement, theory constraints use the following approach: identifying the constraint in the process, exploiting the constraint, subordinating the process to the constraint, elevating the performance of the constraint step, and identifying new constraints.
Comparison of Continous Improvement Processes
Bhuiyan, N., & Baghel, A. (2005). An overview of continuous improvement: from the past to the present. Management decision, 43(5), 761-771.
Nahmias, S., & Cheng, Y. (2009). Production and operations analysis (Vol. 4). New York: McGraw-Hill/Irwin.
Nave, D. (2002). How to compare six sigma, lean and the theory of constraints. Quality Progress, 35(3), 73.
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