Continual improvement (CI) is a key requirement of the ISO 9001 standard. It’s part of quality management and requires companies to constantly look for ways to improve how things are done by making changes in their activities and procedures.
In this article, we’ll discuss what continual improvement is and why it’s so important. We’ll also look at some of the most widely used methods and tools for CI.
Continual Improvement (CI): Definition
Generally, Continual improvement (CI) is based on the idea that small, ongoing, and well-calculated changes can lead to major improvements over time.
In ISO 9001, CI refers to the company’s effort to constantly improve its quality management system to meet ISO standard’s requirements. It’s a continuous process that involves planning, implementing, monitoring, and correcting any problems that may occur.
Methods of Continuous Improvement
The plan-do-check-act (PDCA) cycle is one of the most widely used tools or models for CI. This technique is designed to continuously evaluate a company’s management practices and willingness to embrace and disregard unsupported ideas.
Here’s a general overview of this four-step quality assurance method:
- Plan: In this phase, the organisation develops a plan for improving its quality management system. This plan should be specific and tailored to the company’s needs.
- Do: In this phase, the organisation puts the plan into action and begins to make changes to its processes and procedures.
- Check: In this phase, the organisation monitors the results of its changes and determines whether or not they were successful.
- Act: If the changes are successful, the organisation implements them permanently. If they weren’t, the organisation goes back to the “Do” phase and tries again.
Other widely used methods of CI include Total Quality Management (TCM), Six Sigma, and Lean.
The Importance of Continual Improvement in ISO Standards
There are many reasons why CI is so important, but here are the most significant:
- It enables companies to meet the requirements of the ISO standard: The ISO standard is constantly evolving, and companies need to continually improve their quality management systems to keep up.
- It facilitates growth and innovation: By constantly improving their processes, companies can increase their growth rate and foster a culture of innovation.
- It improves efficiency: When companies implement CI, they often see an improvement in inefficiency due to the fact that defects are reduced, and fewer steps are needed to complete tasks.
- It boosts customer satisfaction: When companies implement CI and take the time to listen to their customers, it can lead to increased customer satisfaction. This is because the company will be able to anticipate their needs and provide a better product or service.
- It improves employee morale: CI allows employees to take ownership over their work and give feedback on how things could be done better or more efficiently. This can improve their overall job satisfaction and increase retention rates among staff members.
What Makes a CI Program Successful?
There are a few key factors that need to be in place for a continuous improvement program to be successful:
- The right tools and resources: An organisation needs the right tools and resources to improve its quality management system. This includes things like training manuals, software, templates, and guidelines.
- A strong leadership team: A strong leadership team will be able to support the CI program and help it become a success.
- A well-defined plan: For a CI program to succeed, an organisation needs to have a well-defined plan that outlines its goals and objectives and how it will achieve them.
How Best Practice Can Help
Want to create a CI strategy but don’t know where to start? The experts at Best Practice can help you develop a successful CI plan, identify improvement opportunities and implement improvement projects as per the ISO framework and your business needs. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help.