How to Achieve Continual Improvement

By: Brian Oates, Corporate Quality System Manager

Continual Improvement Projects

Continual improvement projects are one of the many methods that ACH uses to constantly increase plant efficiencies and customer satisfaction.    Types of continual improvement projects include, but are not limited to research and development, lean six sigma, product and/or software launches, and margin recovery projects.

Determine and Define the Project

Selection of an appropriate continual improvement project is key to success.  You want to determine what project would be the most beneficial to the company and then focus on just that project.  It is better to have one project that is focused and achievable than multiple projects.    Once the project is determined, you need to identify it, define the scope, determine who will be involved, and validate if there are any financial benefits.   Projects are prioritized according to financial impact and ease of implementation (low hanging fruit first).

Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control

During the measuring phase, data is collected that relates to the project goals.    The data is then analyzed to determine actions to take in order to achieve the desired improvements.    The control phase is how the company will ensure that implemented actions are maintained over time.

Foam-Control Plus+ Project

Recently, ACH Foam Technologies launced the Foam-Control Plus+ product and brand; an architectural grade expanded polystyrene (EPS) product line.   Foam-Control Plus+ is a premium grade insulation with a high compressive strength and high R-Value.

This project was a good example of operations working together with sales and marketing.   Information measured and analyzed by the team was determined from market/customer feeback.  Improvements made involved changing of packaging methods, changing of labeling methods, and changing of marketing efforts.   Controls put in place to ensure the goals and objectives of the project were met included adding of part numbers to the ERP system, training of employees, and creation of workmanship standards.

In order to make this a successful product launch, all aspects of the team had to work together to create the Foam-Control Plus+ product line.    Collective input and support have yielded success in the early stages of this project as sales run ahead of forecast.

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