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Aims and Objectives of Continuous Improvement in Operational Delivery

1. Explain the aims and objectives of continuous improvement in operational delivery?

2. Define what the term ‘total quality management’means in relation to operational delivery?

3. Compare and contrast two theoretical approaches to continuous improvement and quality management?

4. Describe the relationship between continuous improvement and total quality management?

Continuous improvement is a constant effort for improving the products, services or its related processes. These efforts can seek “incremental” improvement over time or “breakthrough” improvement all at once. Kaizen is a journey adopted by organizations to use their personal creativity and ingenuity for identification of issues so that they can be resolved. Total quality management or TQM refers to a management approach to attain customer satisfaction by improving products, services, processes and the working culture (Psomas 2016). Continuous improvement is explicit, precise and sometimes spontaneous as well, varied over its formal and informal nature. It involves working continually to enhance quality of products, processes, systems and structure. This report would focus in highlighting the significance of continuous improvement in operational delivery. The report explains the aims and objectives of continuous improvement in operational delivery. Further, total quality management is conceptually elaborated. The relationship between continuous improvement and total quality management is identified. A comparison and contrast between the two theoretical approaches to continuous improvement and quality management are also explained. Lastly, a description for the relationship between continuous improvement and total quality management is provided.

Aims of Continuous Improvement in Operational Delivery

Contribute to the efficiency- One of the main aims of continuous improvement is contributing to its usefulness or efficacy by identifying, reducing and eliminating the suboptimal processes. The gaps and inefficiencies can be reduced to improve competitiveness in providing higher quality at lower cost (Talib, Rahman and Qureshi 2013). 

Effectiveness- Continuous improvement aims to increase effectiveness by identifying successes and gaps in operations. The reasons behind such successes and gaps need to be identified. The newer and better solutions in operations are devised within tighter margins and shorter timeframes (Timans et al. 2014).

Performance and compliance- The continuous improvement processes aims to comply with the legal and organizational standards of operational delivery. The operations require documented and periodic auditing to assist the organization’s operations in achieving target (Shah and Shrivastava 2013).


Objectives of Continuous Improvement in Operational Delivery

The continuous improvement process has the following objectives-

Enhancing process- With continuous improvement, there is constant check on the overall process. The process in operations used to manufacture products can be improved with consistent enhancement in supply chain or process that can be stressful. The problem solving can be enhanced at operations as the processes can be looked from a solutions perspective allowing employees to solve problems continually (Tracy 2014).

Total Quality Management

Systems- The workflow of the operations can be improved through continuous improvement. The process can identify specific problems, analyse it, conduct brainstorming sessions and gather relevant information. The operation members who are responsible for carrying out tasks successfully can help in improving systems through continuous assessment and improvement (Psomas 2016).

Structures- The continuous improvement targets to facilitate organizational structure. The operations manager having competency and experience in production, supply chain and maintenance can help avoid inter-departmental conflicts. The transparency of information across functions can help in enhancing operational delivery (Timans et al. 2014).

Ways of working- As continuous improvement has a direct impact on the way things are done; the people at operations shall be greatly satisfied. The teams can be strengthened and people at operations can work together to enhance ways of working. Innovative ways of working can help streamline the operational processes (Cachay and Abele 2012).

Reduce waste- By continuous improvement; the objective is to minimize wastage of resources and time. The objective is to minimize defective production, overproduction, waiting time, wasting employee knowledge, improper handling and transportation, inventory management and various other forms of wastage (Oakland 2014).

TQM (Total Quality Management) is the practice where the management approaches in attaining the utmost customer satisfaction by improving products, services, processes and the working culture. It refers to organization-wide efforts to deliver high-quality products and services to customers. TQM faces multiple challenges in day to day operations and it is a combination of quality and management tools to reduce wastage, losses and enhance profitability. Total quality management ensures that every employee in the organization works towards improving processes, culture, systems, services and so on for long-term success and profitability of the organization (Lertwattanapongchai and William Swierczek 2014).

Several components of total quality management are explained as under-

Customer focus- Every organization depends on its customers and it is necessary to understand their present and future needs. Customer determines the level of quality. The customers determine if the effort taken by the management regarding training employees, upgrading processes and enhancing quality were worth (Lertwattanapongchai and William Swierczek 2014).

Leadership- The purpose of leadership in an organization is to give a mission and vision to the organization. Leadership at operations help in motivating the employees to work and strive to attain organizational goals. The operational leaders can shape effective and efficient processes to run business successfully (Antony, Vinodh and Gijo 2016).

Components of Total Quality Management

Involvement of stakeholders- The people or stakeholders are one of the strongest essence at operations level. The employees at operations can share their knowledge and experience to improve quality. The employees may feel recognized for their high performance work systems (Lam, O'Donnell and Robertson 2015).

Process approach- A fundamental component of TQM is process thinking. A process can be defined as a series of steps taken from internal or external suppliers to transform into outputs and deliver to the customers. Performance measures can be continuously monitored so that unexpected variation in the operations can be identified (Timans et al. 2014).

Systems approach- Systematic and strategic approach can help in achieving organization’s goals, vision and mission. The faulty systems and processes that generate waste may be identified by using lean approach. The operations department can have accountability of result where the tasks or activities performed by individuals can be listed (Lam, O'Donnell and Robertson 2015).

Continual improvement- The TQM process involves continual improvement that drives an organization to be both creative and analytical. Continual improvement helps the organization to be more competitive and meet stakeholder expectations.  It can be achieved through breakthrough projects where there are opportunities for further improvement (Lam, O'Donnell and Robertson 2015).

Factual approach to decision making- Fact based decision making ensures the customer satisfaction and overall improvement in organizational performance. To ensure if the organization is performing, it is necessary to derive performance measures. The data from operations must be continually collected and analyzed for improving decision making, ensuring accuracy and making predictions (Ismyrlis and Moschidis 2013).


Mutually beneficial supplier relationships- The quality of interdependency of an organization’s relationship with its suppliers enhances the value. If an organization goes through change effective communication at the operations help in maintaining morale of the employees (Lam, O'Donnell and Robertson 2015).

The significance of a positive relationship between total quality management and continuous improvement is vital for the organisation’s pre-determined objectives. Quality cannot be improved unless an organization goes through significant losses. TQM intends to continually improve the principles such as customer focus, involvement and process improvement. With the increase in one variable, the other variable tends to increase and vice versa (Gupta and Valarmathi 2014).

This section determines a comparison and contrast between continuous improvement theory- Kaizen, and quality management theory- Six Sigma. Kaizen as well as Six Sigma can be utilised for improving the processes as both of them have a theoretical approach which works towards the continuous improvement by enhancing efficiency and eliminating the unwanted occurrences or outputs. Both the approaches can help the organization save money and time. The goals of the company determine which theoretical approach must be applied. Both the approaches improve customer forms (Lam, O'Donnell and Robertson 2015).

Relationship between Continuous Improvement and Total Quality Management

The word “Kaizen” originates from Japan and it means ‘Change for the better’ which could also be concluded as ‘Continuous Improvement’. The roots of Six Sigma go back in 1986 where Bill Smith worked at Motorola. The term derived its name as it was registered in the Motorola trademark. Therefore, Kaizen’s history has its roots around the prehistoric Japanese philosophy since its first business use came to sense after the Second World War. However, Six Sigma has been a modern process improvement program as it was coined in 1980s (Gonzalez Aleu and Van Aken 2016).

Kaizen is a journey adopted by organizations to use their personal creativity and ingenuity for identification of issues so that they can be resolved. According to the Kaizen philosophy, everything and every process can be made better or more efficient. The theory of Kaizen identifies three MU’s- – Muda (wastes), Mura (variation/ inconsistency) and Muri (strain/ burden on people & machines). The Theory of Six Sigma looks into the improvement of the quality of output with the help of identification and removal of the causes of defects. The set of tools and strategies help in limiting inconsistencies and defects referred as Mura in the business processes. In technical terms, Six Sigma refers to a failure rate of 3.4 parts in a million or success rate of 99.9997% (Gonzalez Aleu and Van Aken 2016). Ther are two different methodologies that The Six Sigma follows - DMADV (define, measure, analyse, design, verify) and DMAIC (define, measure, analyse, improve, control). Therefore, the approaches applied have a different series of processes (George, Rowlands and Kastle 2014).

Kaizen is greatly an overreaching form of process improvement that facilitates improving all aspects of the business by increasing efficiency and eliminating waste through standardization of process (Antony, Vinodh and Gijo 2016). However, Six Sigma has a way of process improvement which is specific and particularly apt, that lays emphasis on the final product’s quality enhancement. The process improvement involves examination of potential causes of low quality and high defects. It does not focus or examines all the processes of the business like Kaizen (Gonzalez Aleu and Van Aken 2016). Six Sigma involves reviewing the specific final product so that it can be improved. When kaizen is incorporated in a business process, there is large scope for improvement. All the employees are examined regardless of their level. However, Six Sigma is more involved in mathematical functions and comprises of measuring processes deviation from the best product. The aim is to attain zero defects at the time of project completion (García et al. 2013).

Comparison of Theoretical Approaches to Continuous Improvement and Quality Management

The positivity of the relationship between total quality management and continuous improvement is quite clearly visible to those who practice both. Quality cannot be improved unless an organization goes through significant losses. Continuous improvement is considered as a component of TQM. Quality is a parameter that determines the superiority of the product or service. Every business considers quality management as an important concept. A happy and satisfied customer brings new customers that make it important to take care of their needs.  Total quality management philosophy can also be called as a continuous improvement approach which focuses on the quality as its main dimension for an organization (Antony, Vinodh and Gijo 2016).

As TQM focuses on improving quality and performance in all departments, functions and processes, there is a greater chance of exceeding customer expectations. TQM enables the management to adopt a strategic approach to quality management so that defects or losses can be prevented rather than inspection. Total quality management ensures training of employees in a strategic and professional way so that the overall quality can be improved to attain higher standards. The organizations can increase customer satisfaction, decrease cost and enhance team work through total quality management. Every organization requires immense time, resource and efforts for successfully implementing TQM (Cachay and Abele 2012).

Continuous improvement is a type of formal or informal practice. It involves working continually to enhance quality of products, processes, systems and structure. No organization is in favour of compromising quality. The organization’s aim is to maintain good quality along with reduction of time taken and cost incurred with the help of continuous improvement. The organisations whose management teams are incapable of practicing continuous improvement on a daily basis, the next optimum way to influence and imply the concept is by holding the continuous improvement events, which is also identified as Value Stream Mapping or Rapid Improvement events. These events generally take around one to five days to complete, that depends on the depth and extent of the topic meant to be covered, and the team members come up with “to-do” items helping the pristine processes to take hold and it might demand a small amount of time for its execution. TQM intends to continually improve the principles such as customer focus, involvement and process improvement. With the increase in one variable, the other variable tends to increase and vice versa (Besterfield 2013).

Conclusion

Conclusively, one of the main aims of continuous improvement is to contribute to efficacy by identifying, reducing and eliminating the suboptimal processes. The problem solving can be enhanced at operations as the processes can be looked from a solutions perspective allowing employees to solve problems continually. The transparency of information across functions can help in enhancing operational delivery. The teams can be strengthened and people at operations can work together to enhance ways of working. Total quality management ensures that every employee in the organization works towards improving processes, culture, systems, services and so on for long-term success and profitability of the organization. The operational leaders can shape effective and efficient processes to run business successfully. The faulty systems and processes that generate waste may be identified by using lean approach. The organization’s relationship with its suppliers is co-dependent and the relationship shared between them enhances value. Quality cannot be improved unless an organization goes through significant losses. Quality cannot be improved unless an organization goes through significant losses.

References

Antony, J., Vinodh, S. and Gijo, E.V., 2016. Lean Six Sigma for Small and Medium Sized Enterprises A Practical Guide. New York: CRC Press.

Besterfield, D., 2013. Quality control. 1st ed. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson/Prentice Hall.

Cachay, J. and Abele, E., 2012. Developing Competencies for Continuous Improvement Processes on the Shop Floor through Learning Factories–Conceptual Design and Empirical Validation. Procedia CIRP, 3, pp.638-643.

García, J., Maldonado, A., Alvarado, A. and Rivera, D., 2013. Human critical success factors for kaizen and its impacts in industrial performance. The International Journal of Advanced Manufacturing Technology, 70(9-12), pp.2187-2198.

George, M., Rowlands, D. and Kastle, B., 2014. What is Lean Six Sigma?. 1st ed. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Gonzalez Aleu, F. and Van Aken, E., 2016. Systematic literature review of critical success factors for continuous improvement projects. International Journal of Lean Six Sigma, 7(3), pp.214-232.

Gupta, N. and Valarmathi, B., 2014. Total quality management. 1st ed. New Delhi: Tata McGraw-Hill.

Ismyrlis, V. and Moschidis, O., 2013. Six Sigma's critical success factors and toolbox. International Journal of Lean Six Sigma, 4(2), pp.108-117.

Lam, M., O'Donnell, M. and Robertson, D., 2015. Achieving employee commitment for continuous improvement initiatives. International Journal of Operations & Production Management, 35(2), pp.201-215.

Lertwattanapongchai, S. and William Swierczek, F., 2014. Assessing the change process of Lean Six Sigma: a case analysis. International Journal of Lean Six Sigma, 5(4), pp.423-443.

Oakland, J., 2014. Total Quality Management and Operational Excellence. 1st ed. NY: Routledge.

Psomas, E., 2016. The underlying factorial structure and significance of the Six Sigma difficulties and critical success factors. The TQM Journal, 28(4), pp.530-546.

Shah, P. and Shrivastava, R., 2013. Identification of performance measures of Lean Six Sigma in small- and medium-sized enterprises: a pilot study. International Journal of Six Sigma and Competitive Advantage, 8(1), p.1.

Talib, F., Rahman, Z. and Qureshi, M., 2013. An empirical investigation of relationship between total quality management practices and quality performance in Indian service companies. International Journal of Quality & Reliability Management, 30(3), pp.280-318.

Timans, W., Ahaus, K., van Solingen, R., Kumar, M. and Antony, J., 2014. Implementation of continuous improvement based on Lean Six Sigma in small- and medium-sized enterprises. Total Quality Management & Business Excellence, 27(3-4), pp.309-324.

Tracy, B., 2014. Management. 1st ed. New York: AMACOM.

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