Production, Quality & Manufacturing

Continuous Improvement Process

The Continuous Improvement Process (CIP) is an ongoing effort to improve products, services, or processes. It’s a six-step systematic approach to plan, sequence and implement improvement efforts using data and elaborates on the Shewhart Cycle (Plan, Do, Study Act). The CIP provides a common language and methodology which enables understanding the improvement process. The CIP always links back to each organization’s own goals and priorities.

Definition: Continuous improvement is the act of continually looking to improve upon a process, product, or service through small incremental steps.

Why Use a Continuous Improvement Process (CIP)

Implementing a Continuous Improvement Process in an organization should be standard practice now. Studies have shown the main benefits of a CIP are:

  • Increase productivity
  • Better teamwork and morale
  • Greater agility
  • Less waste
  • More efficiency
  • Increase customer satisfaction
  • Increase in profit

Phases of the Continuous Improvement Process (CIP)

There are four phases associated with the CIP. These phases are associated with the Shewhart Cycle:

  • Phase 1 “Plan”: Plan for change and identify improvement opportunities.
  • Phase 2 “Do”: Implement changes identified.
  • Phase 3 “Study”: Check to determine if the change had the desired outcome.
  • Phase 4 “Act”: If successful, implement across the organization and process.
Shewhart Cycle
Figure 1: Shewhart Cycle

The Six (6) Steps of the Continuous Improvement Process (CIP)

  • Step 1: Identify Improvement Opportunity: Select the appropriate process for improvement.
    • Evaluate Process:
    • Select a challenge/problem
  • Step 2: Analyze: Identify and verify the root cause(s).
  • Step 3: Take Action: Plan and implement actions that correct the root cause(s).
  • Step 4: Study Results: Confirm the actions taken to achieve the target.
  • Step 5: Standardize Solution: Ensure the improved level of performance is maintained.
  • Step 6: Plan for the Future:
    • Plan what is to be done with any remaining problems
    • Evaluate the team’s effectiveness Set a target for improvement

The Best Time to Start a Continuous Improvement Process (CIP)

There is no bad time to start using a continuous improvement process but the sooner the better. Below is a list of the times I believe a CIP should be implemented:

  • Beginning of a new project
  • Development of processes and procedures
  • Developing a new or improved product, or service
  • Planning data collection and analysis
  • Implementing any change to a process
  • Whenever a failure occurs

Tools that can be used to help with the Continual Improvement Process (CIP) are:

AcqNotes Tutorial

AcqLinks and References:

Updated: 6/7/2021

Rank: G4

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