Continual Improvement Process (CIP)is a way of thinking that aims to strengthen the competitiveness of companies with continuous improvements in small steps. CIP refers to product, process and service quality. CIP is implemented in the context of teamwork through continuous small improvement steps (in contrast to innovations in the form of large, drastic innovations). CIP is a basic principle of quality management and an indispensable part of ISO 9001. The development of suggestions for improvement by working groups is usually summarized together with the company suggestion system under the term idea management.
CIP is comparable to the Japanese Kaizen and is usually used synonymously. The origins of the Kaizen were developed as part of the quality movements in the 1950s. Toyota, in particular, materialized this philosophy very strongly and successfully. CIP has a workshop character at Toyota and is led by internal or external moderators. CIP in production and assembly was started in the automotive industry in the 1990s. It spread to all areas of work and business and thus became a feature of employee- and participation-oriented corporate culture. Many companies have now set up corresponding working groups, in which employees regularly track down potential for improvement and make plans for implementation.
Prerequisites for Continuous Improvement Process (CIP)
The prerequisite is the will of the company management to implement results from the CIP directly, as well as to authorize the internal working groups themselves to directly implement their ideas and to provide the necessary resources. Lack of or sluggish implementation quickly weakens the motivation of employees to participate. If implementation is not possible in individual cases, this must be justified in a comprehensible manner to the employees. A corporate culture is also necessary in which the ideas of the employees and teamwork are expressly desired and the employees receive effective support and public recognition for this. Above all, it is important that the company management sets the right expectations in the CIP and that the employees are motivated to implement seemingly only small improvements.
Sequence of a CIP Project
In the world of work, there are many different procedures for initiating and implementing CIP in concrete terms. The following steps are to be understood only as a more or less typical example.
The employees of a work area analyze their cooperation in a team and develop concrete suggestions for improvement. For this purpose, they are usually trained beforehand in teamwork and group moderation. The process is usually as follows:
- Define and delimit the work system (What should be improved?)
- Describe the actual state and target state on the basis of key figures
- Describe and evaluate problems (frequency per unit of time or object unit – quotation, order, lot, etc.)
- Evaluate problems (time, money, energy, stress per unit of time)
- Problem analysis (causes, relationships, interfaces, side effects)
- Collect solution ideas (e.g. brainstorming)
- Evaluate and decide on solution ideas
- Derive measures, evaluate expenses and income
- Presentation of results to the decision-making body
- Agree on measures (Who, what, when) and clarify resources
- Implementing measures
- Check success
The individual steps can also be assigned to the individual phases of the deming cycle (PDCA cycle). In the case of the KVP² derived from Volkswagen, the workshop character is emphasized even more. It is more about the rapid leveraging of rationalization potentials according to the Pareto principle, but less about employee participation or even humanization of working life. Typical results are, for example: process improvements, avoidance of waste of resources, improvements in quality and customer satisfaction as well as internal improvements in employee satisfaction, creativity or collaboration.
Continuous Improvement in the Quality Management
An organization that wants to obtain a quality certificate, among other things, explain which organizational measures it has defined so that continuous improvement takes place in a targeted and regular manner. The implementation of these measures and the results shall be monitored and documented. In addition, the organisation must demonstrate how it ensures that deficiencies are not repeated in the event of identified deficiencies. CIP is an explicitly mandatory component of standard-compliant quality management for all areas of the company (sales, order processing, purchasing, development, etc.). However, CIP also affects the management system itself.
From a systemic point of view, organizations always strive to remain stable, they have a “persistence” (are structurally conservative). The demand for continuous improvement contradicts this. Continuous improvement therefore requires constant commitment and communication, otherwise results will not be implemented and the entire improvement process will fall asleep. For CIP, time and money must be made available in a targeted manner and energy must be invested.
CIP promotes flexibility, an important quality feature in order to be able to adapt to changing markets. An organization only changes if there is an external reason for it – or even as in CIP continuously through an inner attitude. If the organization does not realize that the conditions in the environment are changing and how, then it can no longer fulfill its task and sooner or later dies.