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Building Effective Continuous Improvement Teams within Your Industrial Metal-Cutting Operation

May 15, 2016 / , , , , , , ,


There’s a well-known saying that a business is only as good as its people, and industrial metal-cutting operations are no exception. Effective teams are an essential component to the overall success of a business, especially one that aims for continuous improvement.

According to the eBook, Five Performance-Boosting Best Practices for Your Industrial Metal-Cutting Company, “continuous improvement initiatives need to be a team effort to be sustainable.” In other words, to improve your industrial metal-cutting operations to its fullest potential, you need to have the right people with the right skills to keep your plan on course. Without a team backing the process, the very notion of any continuous improvement program is impossible.

Of course, the real challenge is building a strong continuous improvement team. As a recent article from IndustryWeek points out, just because a company works in teams doesn’t mean it is good at teamwork. Management’s goal has to be more than simply building a team; the goal needs to be building an effective team.

What does a successful continuous improvement team look like? An article from the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers provides nine best practices used by highly effective continuous improvement teams:

  1. Look at more than just numbers. Continuous improvement is very metric-driven, but don’t forget about inefficiencies that might show low numbers or those that aren’t easily quantified such as infrastructure, sanitation and preventative maintenance.
  2. Develop cross-functional teams. Expand your team to include more than just members from operations, engineering and quality. Cross-functional teams discuss and agree to solutions minimizing negative impacts before they happen.
  3. Define goals. Know what you want to achieve and how you are going to achieve it. More importantly, make those goals focused and achievable. Focusing on one set of challenges will allow you to see improvements quickly.
  4. Use automated KPIs. Collecting the right information at the right time will enable you to improve performance and eliminate inefficiencies.
  5. Utilize operators selectively. Operators are there to operate the line, not report data. While they can provide focused information when needed, don’t abuse their knowledge.
  6. Determine root causes. Whenever an issue arises, conduct a root cause analysis to find the real reason why it occurred.
  7. Focus on impactful, measurable change. You’ve analyzed the root causes, utilized cross-functional teams to prioritize issues and established a consensus for your process change. Now is the time to implement it and make sure it has the impact you thought by checking in with your team, tracking metrics and making adjustments as needed.
  8. Implement incentives that motivate. Reward hard work with an incentive program. Improve your operations by investing in your people.
  9. Benchmark. Competition is healthy. Know what others in the metal-cutting industry are tracking and their results. Use the comparison to further improve your operation.

Do you have a continuous improvement team? What habits do you feel make it an effective team?