You Understand CI, but How About CI2?March 1, 2012
Nearly every manufacturing company practices continuous improvement. It’s the bite to ISO compliance, the means by which manufacturers manage their processes to improve performance in several critical measures—quality, efficiency, safety, etc. You know it well. But ever since you went out and picked the proverbial low-hanging fruit, just how effective has your CI program been? For many manufacturers, the answer unfortunately is not too effective, this according to a recent survey by the consultants at Accenture. The survey finds that 58 percent of executives describe their CI program as producing “minimal financial impact,” and 69 percent believe their program “needs a reevaluation.”
Yes, our industry is overloaded with acronyms—CI, TQM, JIT, etc. But in light of Accenture’s survey results unearthing an industry-wide struggle to maintain CI momentum, I’ve got one more acronym for you: CI2, or continuously improving the continuous-improvement process. Now I didn’t come to fully understand the concept of CI2 on my own; it came to me after meeting recently with Ray Leathers, the president of Roll Forming Corp. (RFC), at his headquarters in Shelbyville, KY.
For the last few years, RFC has expended a great deal of energy on CI2 (my term, not Leathers’), and the results are impressive. You’ll read all about them in the next issue of MetalForming. Hitting the key points: RFC routinely reviews the impact of its CI program, and then seeks s to improve upon it.
Improvement efforts at RFC, says Leathers, hinge on personal accountability and (importantly) on providing the leadership training necessary—at all levels—to direct a well-oiled CI machine. Interestingly, according to Accenture consultants the absence of personal accountability and leadership commitment are two of the primary forces slowing the momentum of many CI programs.
If your CI program isn’t what is used to be, get started today on CI2. CI is too important to let flounder. As Leathers told me, “In manufacturing we do two things—launch new products or perform continuous improvement.”
Where to start? I suggest focusing on the two barriers noted above— developing leadership skills unique to managing a CI program, and assigning personal accountability to every employee, in particular those out on the production floor. In an article titled, “Nine Habits of Highly Effective Continuous Improvement Teams,” Eddy Azad, president, Parsec Automation, writes:
“When you use a real-time performance management system that selectively involves the operator, it shows them you are serious about your continuous improvement program and that you value the positive role the operators may play in its success.”
(Note: You’ll learn all about the impact that personal accountability can bring to production efficiencies when you read the article on data collection at the robotic-welding cells of Northern Stamping, beginning on page 20 of this issue of MetalForming.)Calculate CI2 at your company and see how many percentage points you can add to the bottom line. Let me know how it goes.
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