Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software systems are essential for gaining and maintaining a competitive advantage in an increasingly complex global market. One area where these benefits are most evident is manufacturers wanting to improve efficiency and productivity. Manufacturing ERP software supports and integrates all the processes, making it the logical platform to use to assist the development of a continuous improvement plan and implement it.
Why should manufacturers aim for continuous improvement?
A continuous improvement plan is a series of activities formulated to bring about gradual, constant improvement to products, services, or processes. It assumes that business operation is not perfect but is continually on the road towards perfection. Every step has the potential to improve quality or speed of delivery, increase customer satisfaction, while at the same time reducing waste, for example, in a lean manufacturing environment, and reducing costs.
Widely applied in manufacturing globally, continuous improvement at its best is incorporated into the culture of a business, reflected in everything they do. One famous example is the Kaizen system employed by Toyota.
Steps to creating a continuous improvement plan
The process is cyclical, and, of course, continuous. It has four stages:
The cycle begins with identifying an opportunity for improvement, which can happen in several ways. In a business where continuous improvement is second nature, suggestions for improvements often come from front line workers within the organisation, who can see ways of improving efficiency through production planning for example, or plant layout. Alternatively, study the data that is available from manufacturing ERP software for clues on where bottlenecks are occurring, or waste is high. Once the inefficiency is identified a plan can be created to improve the performance around that element.
The next stage is to test the suggested change, or changes to see if it results in improvement. The best way to do this is on a small scale so that results can be observed and measured without disrupting the manufacturing process. Careful measurement is critical, as the more accurate and complete the data, the better it is for the next step.
In this step, the results of the tests should be evaluated against the previous performance. A conclusion can then be made on how effective the intervention was in improvement terms.
If the test showed positive results, the change can be deployed on a larger scale, and the results monitored. If no improvement is seen with larger sample size, then the process rolls back to the observing and planning stage. Careful documentation at this stage prevents the common problem of repetitive testing of the same solution. People are forced to think laterally and come up with more creative solutions.
Implementation of a continuous improvement plan
A sound ERP system is at the heart of continuous improvement, at each of the four stages. Most business owners are amazed at how many potential areas for growth and change there are, even in a top-performing plant. ERP production software can assist in both identifying areas to tackle and providing measurable solutions for the issues.
If you would like to learn more about ERP business software for continuous improvement, do not hesitate to contact WinMan for a positive discussion on how we can help your business.