We are putting the finishing touches on our Environmental Management Program at Ebsco and starting our new Safety Management Program. We plan to be ISO certified for Environment, ISO 14001 and OHSAS certified for Safety, OHSAS 18001 just like our current Quality System ISO certified 9001. Each of these certifications address different aspects, yet they all share the same common emphasis, Continuous Improvement.
Continuous Improvement is the central theme in manufacturing. ISO, Lean, 6 Sigma and on and on and on all focus organization’s efforts on continuous improvement. Since the Asian manufacturing explosion in the 1950’s, continuous improvement has ruled. We monitor and measure everything, allowing us to discover any results we were not anticipating. Everyone rushes to determine the reason for the unexpected results (root cause) determines how to fix it and then change policies and procedures to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
This system works. Everyone is focused on improvement. Current performance is only acceptable for an instance than expectations are raised. Better and Better and Better without end.
My question is, “Why doesn’t other industries embrace continuous improvement like manufacturing?” Manufacturing is one of the oldest trades. I know, that other profession that claims to be the oldest, but I don’t think continuous improvement applies there and if it does, we sure aren’t discussing details here. So maybe, manufacturing has been around longer and is more developed?
I spent over thirty years in the retail industry. Our focus was all customer satisfaction. That’s great, but it focuses more on isolated circumstances and not patterns of events. I see management at retailers dealing with upset customers, one on one to satisfy them. What I don’t see is the effort to analyze what happened and find a way to fix the root cause so it doesn’t happen again and then the absolute discipline to maintain the changes. Do you have a favorite store that always seems to have long lines at a certain time of day? Does it happen over and over? Where is the continuous improvement? Where is the root cause analysis and corrective action to see it doesn’t happen again? I’m not picking on retail. It’s the same story in service organizations and other industries.
Continuous Improvement should be for every industry. Maybe for everyone. I’m sure my wife could write-up several non-conforming behavior forms on me, know the root cause and offer corrective actions for the future. Can you imagine your spouse walking around with a stack of corrective actions for you to address? Okay maybe not that far, but as individuals we should be focused on contiguous improvement. Education, knowledge, being a better parent, friend or spouse. Everyone should want to improve.
SO when you hear people talking about manufacturing like the stereotypical sweat shop assembly line, think about it. Manufacturing is one of the most developed and constantly improving industries in the world. It must be. Manufacturing has been part of the global economy long before other industries knew the global economy existed. I know retailers have competition. Stand in any Walgreens parking lot and I bet you can see a CVS across the street. But manufacturing faces world-wide competition. Not local or National, but global. Without continuous improvement individual manufacturers would not exist.
I have no doubt that manufacturing has one of the most developed business models of any industry. My only question is when is everyone else going to catch up.
Excuse me now, I need to get to the store and I’m sure they will only have one register opened for the long line of customers, and then I need to call the technical help line and sit on hold for 45 minutes, like yesterday and the day before and the day before that.