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Improvement Toolkit / Improvement Systems

There are several improvement systems in common usage – Six Sigma uses DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyse, Implement, Control), Lean initiatives often use PDCA or CAPDO, and there are plenty of others. 


This isn’t surprising, as the system is extremely important – after all, improvement is not really about clever tools, or impressive intellect – anyone can do it as long as they apply the required rigour.  The improvement system simply makes sure the organisation is applying rigour to it’s own improvement.  Of course, every organisation does each of the steps some of the time – the point of an improvement system is the help the organisation follow all the of the steps all (or at least most) of the time – and this is what drives higher success rates in solving problems to root cause quickly, and so increasing the rate of improvement.

Improvement systems are important, but they don’t have to be cloaked in jargon.  The steps are straightforward – collect some information, decide what is important and then who is going to do something about it;  then actually do something, and make sure that the result you got was the result you expected.

Over the years LI observed that most businesses do most of the right activity at some point, just not all the time in all places, and often there is a great deal of unnecessary activity which hinders rather than helps.  So, for instance the first step is about collecting information, not collecting data – drowning in data is just as bad as not having enough.  Unless your OEE is above 90%, collecting OEE information on anything other than your bottleneck is only going to slow your improvement rate down.


1. Collect Information
Collect all and only the right information, around the bottlenecks.  All the information is used, and is as easy as possible to collect – and is collected and recorded in the same way not matter which shift, operator, or manager is on duty.


2. Analyse and Prioritise
Both efficiency and yield metrics in place, measured against true potential of the bottlenecks, and losses reported – with both paretos and trends.  The single most important report to drive improvement is the trend of each of the top 6-8 losses over the previous 12-18 weeks – this puts facts on the table when considering whether a particular issue is getting better, worse, or staying the same, and enables you to see if a particular fix that was implemented actually made a difference to the loss it was supposed to address.  If you don’t use this at your weekly meeting, you’re not improving as fast as you could be.


3. Manage Resources
Effective daily and weekly meetings that review the performance metrics, assign actions to individuals, who commit to completion dates, and then complete their actions by these dates.  It’s also important to have a monthly or quarterly management review that ensures resources are being allocated as effectively as possible.


4. Implement Actions
A common approach being used by different people and departments that helps define the real problem, quickly identifies the multiple root causes that lead to the symptoms, and arrive at permanent, 100yr fixes that resolve the issues permanently.


5. Demonstrate Delivery
So often not paid enough attention – efficiency is not necessarily the same as productivity unless the benefit is realised.  Checking that an improved efficiency leads to a better price per pack / $/tonne, or other metric that relates directly to the bottom line is critical in ensuring that the business benefits from improvement activity, and continues to invest in it.

To maintain a really effective improvement system, it’s necessary to review each of the steps above periodically, and make changes or give coaching where appropriate to ensure that the business is as effective as it can be.  Audit each of the elements, and take action to improve them.




What we’re doing is great. I’ve been wanting help like this for what seems ages, the structure for problem solving makes it easy for everyone to get involved.

Cell Technical Expert, Multi-Site Household Goods Company

Before LI came I was facing a £2million factory extension project as my only solution for growth… I would recommend LI Europe to any food manufacturing business which wants to achieve rapid and sustainable productivity improvement.

Graham Whittle, Managing Director, Whitby Seafoods