Continuous improvement has long been an important goal in manufacturing. Some organizations leverage structured business management methodologies such as Lean or Six Sigma, while others use a less formal approach. Either way, the goal is to maximize resources, reduce cost, and deliver quality products on time. Many organizations have turned to improvement management software to help remove the friction from positive change to achieve these critical objectives. If you are considering technology to accelerate your progress, this post will help.
Principal Features of Improvement Software for Manufacturing
There are a bunch of project management and collaboration software tools available. Most have features for task scheduling and document sharing, but they are not all designed to address the specific needs of manufacturing organizations that need to manage improvement activities.
The following features set continuous improvement software apart from generic project management solutions.
In manufacturing, the CI approach means that every employee from the assembly line to the board room is tasked with finding and documenting improvement opportunities. Continuous improvement software provides the platform for capturing each potential improvement. Opportunity capture is so fundamental that it must be easy for any employee to enter a new opportunity with all associated details and documentation. Ideally, the solution is online and available 24x7 from any internet-connected device. For manufacturing floors where employees don't have access to a computer or mobile phone, kiosks are a great way to make the technology available in the space where work is done.
Electronic Huddle Boards
Daily huddles are a favorite improvement technique used in manufacturing. In the old model, the team gathers around a whiteboard or poster that visualizes the current progress of improvement work. Improvement management software for manufacturing takes this concept to the next level by creating a digital huddle board that shows more than just the current state. Users can drill down into each work in progress and review the long-term impact of completed improvements. Leaders can check the boards of several teams without going from space to space. If you want to continue standing meetings, digital wallboards make it interactive.
Alerts and Notifications
One of the challenges of traditional physical huddle boards is that they don't do anything to alert supervisors and leaders when their attention is needed for a particular improvement project or new employee suggestion. The best continuous improvement software has a workflow that follows every opportunity. The right people get alerts and notifications when a new opportunity is submitted, a task is due, or a deadline is missed. With this structure in place, improvements move more quickly, and communication is enhanced.
Most manufacturing organizations are data-driven and require hard evidence that an improvement has been effective. Choosing software with impact reporting sets you up to get insight into whether your improvement initiatives generate results related to specific strategic goals. Software is the best way to track both the immediate and long-term impact of improvement activities.
Activity and Engagement Reporting
Building a culture of improvement in manufacturing takes time and effort. To be sure that improvement is spreading, leaders need to assess each department, team, and person's engagement level. Improvement software gives you a platform for activity and engagement reporting. Leaders and supervisors can identify trends in key indicators such as the number of new opportunity submissions, the number of completed projects, and how often the team is logging into the solution.
The fastest way to spread the continuous improvement mindset is to recognize and reward the people who drive efforts to engage in positive change. Look for improvement software for manufacturing that has built-in improvement broadcasting to make it easy for supervisors to spread the word when excellent results are achieved.
Compare software platforms using this free worksheet.
These capabilities are all essential, but they aren't the only critical considerations for manufacturing organizations. It is also important to find a solutions provider that will be a good partner and help continuous improvement thrive in your organization. Think about:
Implementation and Ongoing Support
It is crucial to find a vendor that will provide you with a dedicated account manager who can guide your team through the implementation and adoption phases. Ask questions about whether you'll have help during configuration and deployment and what long-term email and telephone support will be available.
Other Manufacturing Customers
The needs of manufacturing companies are unique, and not every solution that works for other types of organizations is a good fit. It's smart to make sure the vendor has experience in manufacturing and clients similar to you.
Online Training and Self-help
You'll undoubtedly want to have live training when you first implement the solution. Still, turnover in manufacturing is a reality, so look for a solution with a robust knowledge center that includes video training so that you can bring new employees up to speed quickly.
A continuous improvement culture can transform manufacturing organizations by reducing waste, improving quality, and increasing employee engagement. Continuous improvement software paves the way to these essential goals.
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