6.5.2 Why implement Continuous Improvement

Why continuous improvement? Because Continuous Improvement represents the opportunity of becoming much more innovative by taking advantage of the creativity of all the staff in the organisation.1 After all, with every pair of hands you also get a free brain – it is an awful waste not to use it!.

Continuous Improvement implementation involves the following business benefits:

  • Better business performance resulting in increased profits
  • Enhanced customer satisfaction
  • Improved staff morale
  • Better job satisfaction and improved recruitment and retention figures
  • Better communications within organisations
  • Improved relations with suppliers
  • Shorter lead in time to market
  • Better use of resources
  • More efficient planning2

Firms like Toyota (one of the leading companies in Continuous Improvement implementation) receive annually around 2 million suggestions, whilst Kawasaki Engineering reports a staggering 7 million, and they implement the vast majority of these. (To put that in perspective, it was estimated in 1989 that workers in the Japanese car industry made an average of 1 suggestion per worker per week: the European equivalent figures were 0.5 suggestions, per worker, per year!).3
That picture is changing fast, recent survey data suggest that 65% of companies consider CI to be of strategic importance, and around 50% have instituted some form of systematic programme to apply these concepts - a further 19% claim to have a widespread and sustained process of CI in operation, and of those firms using CI 89% claim it has had an impact on productivity, quality, delivery performance or some combination of these. 4

Please stop and think: Is Continuous Improvement philosophy known or established in your company? If so, how long have you been working with it? Are all the employees involved in it? If not, are worker’s improvement suggestions taken into account? How are these opinions gathered?

1 See component 4.6 Management of internal innovative proposals of this guide.
2 www.constructingexcellence.org.uk/resources/themes/internal/improvement.jsp
3 Fundación COTEC, CENTRIM, IRIM, Manchester Business School, Socintec (1998) TEMAGUIDE. A Guide to Technology Management and Innovation for Companies. A research undertaken with support of the EU Innovation Program.
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