Continuous Improvement (CI) seems like a straight-forward concept, but what’s the best way to do that in an ERP environment and why should you consider it?
At its most basic level, CI is a way to prioritize smaller projects and initiatives with incremental steps that improve your business processes and the use of the system. It maintains ongoing progression and forward movement. And with that series of smaller improvements, momentum and an attitude to take on more are generated.
As we’ll talk about below, we’ll see whether CI is right for your org, what should be considered, and some basics on how to approach CI.
Is Continuous Improvement Right for You?
How do you know whether CI is needed? In some way, every organization can improve upon their business processes or use of the system. The question becomes, what factors gauge the need for CI initiatives? Some things to consider are:
- Were there items left out from the initial project because of scope, budget or timing constraints?
- Did the project die off after an initial implementation with Phase 2 never happening?
- Has the business or the processes changed?
- Is there new technology or functionality that was previously unavailable that lessens or resolves a pain point?
- Are there positive financial impacts to doing a CI initiative?
- Has the system been in place for a long period of time with no significant changes?
It’s important to understand the difference between a large project and a CI initiative. A CI has some very clear characteristics including:
- It’s a small activity or a subset of a larger project that can be broken down into manageable tasks. They can — but often don’t — require cross-functional involvement.
- They have a short timeline – try sticking to ones that can be completed in 90 days or less.
- Small scope – clearly defined objectives and desired outcomes are needed to maintain focus.
- Maintain a minimal number of milestones – too many and it probably can be further divided or done as a pilot first.
What to Do, What to Do
Now that you’ve determined that CI is needed, and understand what a CI initiative looks like, what’s the best way to get the ball rolling?
- Start with a brainstorming session to identify the current pain points.
- Review the items that were left out of the initial implementation.
- Do an initial prioritization.
- Outline the key stakeholders and resources to tackle it – regardless of the effort, someone needs to be the QB and drive it.
- Outline what’s needed – money, resources, etc.
- Present it to the group responsible for the system or to senior management.
Often the outcome of this exercise looks like a Gantt chart with a list of projects and the prioritized timeline. This provides a clear view of all the initiatives to allow assessment of the projects and shuffle the priorities as needed due to funding, resource availability or overall impact to the business. It’s ok if there are overlapping projects especially if they come from different business areas.
Planning for CI initiatives is still critical. A solid plan is needed so the initiative can be monitored and kept on track. Granted, it does not need to be as detailed as a full-size implementation or optimization but without a structured plan, you won’t be able to measure when the project is done, nor whether the CI was successful.
The company’s culture and willingness to change is another important consideration. If employees are not used to Lean practices or Agile methodologies, adopting a CI effort will be challenging. However, once CI efforts are in place and employees have seen some success, they will warm up to the concept. Remember CI is a mind-set; it’s not meant to give you additional work. The key is to work smarter, not harder.
This is where the fun begins. Whether the initiative is a pilot or a full-blown effort, this is the time to experiment to see how best to achieve the desired outcomes. One major consideration is to keep track of what was done to review and evaluate it. Hindsight is 20/20 so learn from what you’ve done.
Benefits of the CI process – is it worth the effort
Of course, the answer to whether CI was beneficial or not is “it depends.” Small strides turn into big gains. Other efforts might not pan out and only time will tell. Regardless, taking on a CI approach demonstrates the willingness to change and being comfortable with considering different and possibly better ways of doing things.
CI in the Plex Environment
When looking at your Plex deployment, it’s easy to see what was left out or failed to gain traction in the past. Here’s a short list of some common CI projects:
- Finite scheduling
- Tooling and Maintenance
- Enhanced Quality
- Fixed Assets
- Improved use of scheduling tools and MRP
- Transitioning to UX
If you would like to find out why Revolution Group has been a trusted Plex ERP consulting partner for more than 20 years, call us at 614-212-1111 or reach us at [email protected]. We are happy to help answer any continuous improvement projects questions.