Every manufacturing organisation feels the pain of losses in their operations:

  • On average, 31% of plants lose 20% of more of their hours and inventory to scrap and rework.
  • 41% of plants reported machine uptime rates of 70% or lower, leading to 30% losses in productivity for those organizations
  • 31% of plants reported complete-and-on-time delivery rates of 70% or lower

Those are just the most obvious gaps, but its far from exhaustive in terms of wastes from lost productivity due to other operations and safety setbacks. No matter how way you look at it, wastes need to be eliminated, yet only 55% of plants regularly pursue waste reduction. Plants that embrace waste reduction can still find a competitive advantage and witness stronger profit margins and ROI.

Focused improvement is one of the strongest tools in the pursuit of waste reduction, because it enables your plant associates to own the process. When everyone in the plant, especially those on the shop floor, is oriented towards that goal, you’ll be amazed at how effectively you can eliminate waste.

Focused Improvement – A Pillar of Operational Excellence

Focused improvement is one of the main pillars of the Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) methodology and a core part of the Milliken Performance System, our very own operational excellence performance system. Focused Improvement is a methodology in which data and measurement coupled with logical thinking and problem-solving methods are applied to identify root causes of process variation and focus resources on eliminating them. Through Focused improvement our goal is to reduce variation and eliminate losses related to the 6Ms of Manufacturing: Measurement, huMan, Machine, environMent, Material, Method (6M’s). The overriding goal of Focused Improvement is to bring these losses and process variations as close to zero as possible, thus empowering associates at all levels to generate a zero-loss culture inside your business.

Focused Improvement projects follow a robust yet repeatable methodology to provide a logical thinking process that identifies root causes of opportunities in order to reduce and eliminate losses.

Focused improvement, by sheer definition of the word is precise, but don’t be fooled into thinking its easy to ‘do Focused Improvement.’ We have learned and appreciated that there needs to be different types of approaches dependant on the problems we are facing. Using Focused Improvement to generate funding, improve the capability of the processes and cultivate our problem-solving culture allows every single person at every single level to be a problem solver. Focused Improvement helps unlock this potential and unleash the power of your people.

Focused Improvement Project Steps

The application of the steps of DMAIC as a Focused Improvement project implementation process can allow you to build a consistent framework, repeatable improvement language and a process that can be applied to all losses by all associates. Focused Improvement supports the idea that every associate can be a confident problem solver.

DMAIC

DMAIC – Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve & Control

  • Define: Align on the goal of the project (aka, the waste you want to eliminate or reduce) and get approval to move forward with it
  • Measure: Identify and collect data surrounding the factors that influence the waste you want to reduce or elimination
  • Analyze: Determine the root cause of the waste
  • Improve: Prioritize implementation of countermeasures based on the root cause
  • Control: Ensure the countermeasures are effective and lead to sustained waste reduction

Focused Improvement Process Strategy

Essentially, Focused Improvement is not a ‘one size fits all’ approach to eliminating losses and the start and planning of the project is just as important as the output and result. In many cases, the best start coupled with the correct approach leads to considerably improved results and engagement from all involved. Taking time to match the Focused Improvement approach to the complexity of the problem ensures that time, effort and energy can be balanced sensibly and efficiently. We have identified four approaches that have become the core of Performance Solutions by Milliken’s approach and are both commonly and consistently applied inside our own sites and with our clients / partners through our Performance Solutions practitioner team:

  • Six Sigma: best used when the cause and solution of a loss is unknown
  • Kaizen / “Just Do It”: quick win projects where the cause and solution are known, and implementations can be completed in as little as two weeks
  • Focused Improvement Project: best used when the cause of a loss is known, but the solution is not. The end goal is most often cost reduction.

Every organization has differing needs, constraints and challenges – it’s crucially important to be realistic when choosing your Focused improvement activities. In order to ensure we use our valuable resources effectively, understanding your current losses and the performance of your business (people, processes, plant) is the only way to start.
Process / Product Redesign:

The Focused Improvement Mindset

As much as it is crucial to select the correct approach to fit the problem, we must hold certain components sacred irrespective of the approach. For your focused improvement approach to work, several key components must be applied consistently, every time.

Zero loss thinking & Loss stratification

Zero loss thinking –Don’t just look to incrementally reduce problems – reduce them in their entirety. If you set a softer target – one that is either vague or conservative in nature, you will get a softer, less effective result. Measure against zero – “Zero accidents, zero waste, zero defects, zero losses.” – this helps build a zero loss mindset in every associate and a culture whereby we are constantly hunting improvements and driving out losses.

Baselines and targets (Define & Measure)

Facts and data are king and must be treated accordingly. Always ensure to have data ratified to represent the problem and understand your starting point and baseline – if you don’t know where you start from, how can you know if you’ve improved? Clearly identified baselines, goals, milestone reviews and triggers must be established to determine the absolute start point, detail the review and response process and essentially confirm when the focused improvement project has been successful or completed.

Cross functional teams (Define & Measure)

Teams made up of key stakeholders from cross-functional areas of your business are more efficient in defining goals, determining solutions and enabling the overall success of our focused improvement efforts. The promotion of cross-functional working is very much a silo buster and creates an aligned approach. Roles and responsibilities must be clear and agreed upon by the team.

Root cause analysis tools (Analyze & Improve)

Recurring problems are usually from poor problem-solving activities where the root cause was not found and the “BAND AID / Quick fix” approach was used. In order to analyze the data and understand the root cause of your problem, the robust application of root cause analysis tools is essential. Selection and correct use of the most appropriate tool is the goal here.

  • 6M Analysis / Fishbone / Ishikawa Diagram: A tool designed to identify, explore, and graphically display the possible causes related to a problem or condition.
  • Why – Why analysis: A simple and effective tool for solving problems where the primary goal is to find the exact reason that causes a given problem by asking a sequence of “Why” questions.
  • Mapping: A picture paints a thousand words – mapping the process during your focused improvements efforts allows you to visually represent more information about a goal or problem of the existing area or process.

Tracking and sustaining (Improve & Control)

We have all made improvements in the past. How many have outlasted an organizational change, new associates joining, or production changes? In order to ensure the impact is robust and has longevity, the countermeasure selection, tracking and sustaining through the Improve and Control phases of DMAIC are crucial.

  • Application of the Countermeasure Ladder – for each root cause, challenge the countermeasure selected by climbing as high up the ladder as possible. This helps us create a positive challenge, a review and reflect moment to ensure we aiming as high as possible! The higher up the ladder the higher the chance of success:
  • Countermeasure control and tracking documents – A critical part of completing a countermeasure is the documentation for training and replication purposes. These tools, applied well at this point, create impactful outputs and solutions. We focus on the correct application of One Point Lessons and Standard Work Instructions:
  • Consistent monitoring of data and information through our Daily Management Process (Review and Response) – You can only know if your focused improvement efforts are successful if your measures are clearly defined & tracked. Clear data and established metrics will allow you to quantify, share and communicate successes.

Replication & Recognition (Control)

Improvements and successes are essential to allow your organisation to grow, succeed and nurture an improvement culture. At Milliken, true success is the ability and desire to share and implement our focused improvement successes into other areas of the organisation. Leveraging the initial improvement and replicating those findings with other people, processes and machines accelerated our journey to operational excellence. Recognition of our associates, our most valuable asset, is at the heart of everything we do inside of Milliken – ensuring appropriate feedback, sacred space & time as well as the correct levels of education and support motivate our associates, at all levels, to be (and want to be) involved in our improvement efforts. Those who want to see similar success must adopt this same practice

Focused Improvement – Performance Solutions by Milliken

Focused Improvement and the changes implemented as a result of this methodology can sometimes create uncertainty. Too often, challenging the process and measuring to zero can be seen as a threat, bringing with it unknowns, certain risks and potential failures – or at the very least, frustration! Change, managed effectively through the application of Focused improvement creates a multitude of opportunities, drives success in your organization whilst building a foundation of sustainable, repeatable, accurate action!

At Performance Solutions by Milliken, we believe in leading by example to help you build long-term, sustainable success. We have grown from our own manufacturing practices and application of Focused Improvement and studied methodologies from around the world using that knowledge to create a real-world system that improves upon other approaches. The Focused Improvement principle inside the Milliken Performance System is an extension of the experience we have gained through years of implementing these very processes. We don’t just teach solutions; we live them.

Performance Solutions by Milliken supports clients with highly trained, experienced business practitioners who have learned these processes through years of successfully implementing them. Why “practitioners” instead of “consultants”? Because decades of personal experience implementing the Milliken Performance System makes our associates different from those in systems like Six Sigma and lean manufacturing. Our practitioners go beyond offering good advice–they are specialists who have studied their vocations, practiced their professions, and established working relationships with clients.

Whether your organization is struggling with identifying the best focused improvement steps to utilize, or how to apply focused improvement tools, Performance Solutions by Milliken can help.

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