Quality improvement lessons from the factory floor
Want to make your products better? Start with your shop floor. Involve employees early and often. When companies make their employees a key part of their continuous quality improvement programs, they make superior products a reality, not a wish.
Many companies want to make continuous quality improvement part of their standard operating procedure, but fail to do so because they don’t include everyone in the company as active participants.
There’s a benefit to empowering workers to make change. That means getting everyone in the organization—from factory workers to management—to understand their role in continuous quality improvement. It means getting everyone in the company actively involved in evolving their products, processes and corporate culture.
Getting employees to buy in
How does a company get its people vested in this kind of program?
Encourage employees and team members to undergo continuous quality improvement training. This program includes regular meetings where quality improvement techniques are discussed and suggestions are adopted. Some companies offer a bonus based on the impact of the change suggested.
The key to making these programs work is empowering employees to provide management the information needed to understand what needs to be improved. The more participation you get from the people on the floor, the better.
A supervisor can’t understand what’s going on everywhere in the plant. The impact on employee morale is also significant because employees see that suggestions are taken seriously.
Going through a quality improvement process brings all members of the organization closer and enhances a company’s corporate culture.
Making quality improvement part of the company culture
Here’s how to make continuous quality improvement a part of your company’s culture:
- Understand that continuous quality improvement is a long-term approach.
- Realize and recognize that small, incremental changes will, over the long-term, positively affect efficiency and quality.
- Involve employees at all levels of the organization.
- Make sure that people who produce the product understand how important their hands-on experience is.
- Encourage and reward out-of-the-box thinking.
- Put suggestions into action and explain their impact on the company.
- Showcase those who participate in the program.
- Rotate employees into different departments to bring in fresh eyes who will suggest fresh ideas.
This approach leads to breakthrough improvements in both products and process, and creates a sense of ownership in the company’s success. It represents a cornerstone of evolution present in all facilities. The process forces companies to evolve. And, companies that evolve will ultimately last.