Continuous process improvement is the act of regularly making improvements to an item, service or process. This refinement is intended to occur repeatedly and can take the form of gradual or revolutionary changes. The key principle behind continuous process improvement is adaptation. Success can be achieved through this process when the goal of modifying current products or practices and tailoring them to the projected needs of the future is consistently met.
Why is Continuous Process Improvement Important?
In order to maintain efficient life cycle logistics, continuous process improvement is a necessary form of planning and optimization. This practice enhances the current cycle by evaluating logistics in terms of production, quality, reliability, timing, cost-effectiveness and resource depletion. Upon this assessment, opportunities for improvement are identified and planned to be integrated as smoothly as possible into the life cycle. After these changes are made, their success is reviewed to constantly adapt life cycle logistics for maximum success. Continuous process improvement ensures that acquisition, sustainment and disposal of systems are performed to their best ability.
Furthermore, future innovation and continuous process improvement go hand and hand. The act of repeatedly correcting business practices aligns with the goal of technological advancements. As businesses aim to produce more for less, technology — which is also being constantly developed — aims to be just as efficient. Continuous process improvement is essential in order to remain up to speed on an industry’s newest developments and dynamic nature.
Another benefit of continuous process improvement is that it creates the opportunity to establish your business as an industry or thought leader. When your business is persistent in the refinement of practices, you are prioritizing innovation. Rather than simply producing for the current state, continuous process improvement invokes and promotes thought of the future.
The Stages of Continuous Process Improvement
Continuous process improvement requires the collaboration of employees to analyze, assess and enhance the performance of the business’ current state and offerings. This form of predictive problem-solving is typically applied in a four-step “PDCA” cycle:
Plan: In the planning stage of continuous process improvement, new projects are formulated, objectives are set and teams are formed. Upon this planning, an overall assessment is performed of the effort and task fulfillment required to achieve the specific objective.
Do: The do stage of continuous process improvement is dedicated to project design and implementing changes. During this phase, testing is conducted through slight changes made to the project to assess a variety of outcomes and deviations. This is also the time to train staff in standard procedures of the new system.
Check: In the check stage of continuous process improvement, data analysis is used to determine the change’s effectiveness. These findings are recorded to further evaluate progress and assess overall performance of the system or project.
Act: The action stage of continuous process improvement is based off the decision to apply the change or new project on a wider scale based on success, or abandon the process and repeat the cycle with different modifications. Ideally, this is a phase dedicated to standardizing and improving the project for greater implementation.
These four stages are intended to be applied to business or defense logistics as a cycle. Whether a new system proves successful or requires additional improvements, continuous process improvement requires constant development. Upon success, the newly applied standard will be monitored and tested as before to promote further innovation. If the system or project falls short of the assigned objective, other tests and modifications would continue to be applied until significant progress or achievement is made.
Continuous Process Improvement in the Defense Industry
Businesses under the supervision of the Department of Defense (DoD) hold significant positions in protecting national security. Continuous process improvement — when applied to these businesses and the Armed Forces — requires and promotes continuous learning in the defense industry. DoD-related business professionals or leaders in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard must persistently pursue new knowledge to apply it to the improvement process. Remaining educated on the most recent defense developments promotes the highest level of safety possible — strategically, systematically and technologically.
The innovation related to continuous process improvement generates industrial readiness in military depots through technological advancement. This process is where the objectives of the DoD, Armed Forces and defense logistics converge. By constantly developing technology and related systems, the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard are placing their focus on integrating the latest industrial improvements to their defense logistics. The more advanced the technology, the better prepared military depots will be.
Lastly, continuous process improvement fosters strategic thinking in the DoD industry and military leaders. The sustained process of system improvement instills an inclination to forward-thinking in those involved. Instead of viewing projects as a one-time operation, continuous process improvement encourages repeated assessment, modification and refinement. It also is considered a form of predictive problem-solving, which challenges professionals and military leaders to create solutions as well as anticipate them. This shift will supplement strategic thinking in areas under the DoD through consideration of the future and multiple gateways to success that the process provides.
Interested in learning more about continuous process improvement and how the methods apply to your business? Check out our seminars on topics from early career logistics training to critical strategic thinking training. The Institute for Defense and Business’ (IDB) programs are available to varying profiles of professionals early in their DoD-related careers and those in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard. Gain a wide range of knowledge on key topics including technology, innovation, DoD budget primers, logistics, strategy formulation and implementation, national security issues and decision–making.
About the Institute for Defense and Business
The Institute for Defense and Business (IDB) delivers educational programs and research to teach, challenge and inspire leaders who work with and within the defense enterprise to achieve next-level results for their organization. IDB features curriculum in Logistics, Supply Chain and Life Cycle Management, Complex Industrial Leadership, Strategic Studies, Global Business and Defense Studies, Continuous Process Improvement, and Stabilization and Economic Reconstruction. Visit www.IDB.org or contact us on our website for more information.