Continuous Improvement, reflecting a core principle of lean manufacturing, is all about gradual never-ending change with the ultimate goal to get better and improve processes all the time.
So, why is it valuable to have an active participation of your front-line workers in continuous improvement? It is your employees on the shopfloor that are tasked with building your products and that are assigned to the defined processes. Equipped with the right tools to report ideas, valuable input for process improvement can be generated from your front-line workers.
Let’s have a look at the development of the process for continuous improvement in an exemplary automotive supplier. Steve is an experienced machine operator in this company. In this chapter we will describe former approaches to continuous improvement that were made in his company and explain why those approaches lacked participation.
Because they always did it like this, until recently, Steve was asked to hand in his ideas for continuous improvement by dropping a piece of paper into a container at his production cell. However, for years the company was not satisfied with the level of participation in continuous improvement. Why was that?
To overcome those issues, Steve decided to create a WhatsApp-Group on his own to share his improvement proposals with his colleagues. His co-workers liked the idea and also added messages to the group. Very quickly, the thread grew until it was hard to find relevant information.
The big drawback of such a hands-on bottom-up solution is that important knowledge is not stored in official company tools. This is problematic from many perspectives, most importantly it is a data security nightmare.
Also, Steve quickly realized that with this approach availability of knowledge and information was not significantly better, compared to the previous paper-based process. Even though Steve was able to “star” messages relevant to him, this was not enough to keep track of all the messages in the group, resulting in lost information. As Steve didn’t want to make the thread even longer, possibly hiding other valuable information, he soon got reluctant to add new ideas to the thread.
Furthermore, with this approach knowledge-management was complex and certain information regularly was lost. After Steve shared a proposal to improve the machine setup process in the respective WhatsApp-Group, he deleted one comment as he did not consider it as being valuable. The inability to manage knowledge bears the risk that potentially relevant information is lost by accident.
Luckily, Steve is a pragmatic man and soon realized that WhatsApp is not the right tool for Continuous Improvement. He finally went to his manager and discussed one more improvement proposal: that is, the implementation of a professional digital system for continuous improvement proposals. Today, since the automotive supplier company decided to introduce such a system, Steve can use the WORKERBASE Connected worker platform for his improvement proposals. And all his co-workers now provide more ideas than ever before. The right information is available to the right people at the right point in time, without having to search hundreds of pieces of paper to find the relevant information.
Using digital workflows, the automotive supplier managed to boost continuous improvement participation across the entire organization. Here is what they changed to get their front-line workers on board.
WORKERBASE: the all-in-one solution for the connected worker
Customized improvement apps allow operators to hand in improvement proposals supported by text, pictures and/or videos. Furthermore, feedback is gathered by commenting on existing proposals available to all involved users. Finally, submitted proposals can be evaluated by management on a regular basis.
With the connected worker platform from WORKERBASE, an easy to implement solution to better involve workers in continuous improvement looks like this: first, the user scans the barcode of a machine. This is setting the context, specifying the topic he is interested in (e.g. a specific machine). Secondly, the user can choose whether he wants to add a new proposal or whether he wants to retrieve information on that specific topic. Finally the user can also leave a comment on the asset to foster more active interaction and make proposals even more valuable.
The WORKERBASE solution can be introduced in a very short time. If you are like Steve and interested in a professional and flexible platform to manage your continuous improvement proposals, please do not hesitate to contact us!