Continuous Improvement – The clue is in the name…

Of all the improvements approaches we think continuous improvement (CI) is one of the best – and certainly the easiest to adopt. And yet, like so many things in business, people make it more complicated than it needs to be and have a bad experience as a result.

A new client, who had worked with a range of improvement methodologies and found none of them to their liking, asked us for our advice. When we suggested CI as the best approach for their particular situation and requirements, they responded with “Continuous improvement? Yes, we tried that once…it didn’t work.” It’s one of our favourite quotes as it says everything about so many people’s experience of trying to introduce any one of the many improvement methods out there.

And it certainly begs the question of how long they tried it for, doesn’t it?

Continuous improvement is the process whereby you make small regular changes to the way the work gets done, continually. Each step provides an incremental improvement to overall performance. It is by its very nature, not a one-off occurrence, but rather a way of working, a habit, that should slot into your day, as naturally as brushing your teeth.

Some people can’t see the point of small changes, they want a big fix, a drastic overhaul, a magic wand. Often, though, it is the small changes that count. After all, it was probably small changes that caused your current predicament in the first place.

For example, an e-commerce company that we know began as a small part-time business was now a substantial company operating out of a warehouse. However, hours were being lost everyday by small inefficiencies. Orders would arrive from suppliers and the boxes placed in a holding area, waiting to be checked. Later, someone else would come along with the paperwork to check the items. But first, they had to find the correct boxes from the pile of that day’s deliveries. Then, someone else would return to the boxes and have to sort through them again to find out which had been checked in, and which hadn’t, before finally something was done with the goods.

Working with the warehouse staff, a simple system was implemented. Any orders arriving were placed on a shelf unopened. One person would then open the relevant boxes, check the items in and then move the box to the next shelf. A warehouse operative would then know that these goods were ready to be entered into the warehouse.

A seemingly simple change, but one that had a big effect on time. All those wasted minutes everyday added up over a working year into a substantial number of hours.

If you save 10 minutes a day, that adds up to 37 hours in a year. A whole working weeks’ worth of time saved. In a difficult and unpredictable marketplace raising prices to increase profit is often not an option, however reducing costs is. Improving efficiency is one of the most effective ways to reduce your costs and improve your profit margin.

But, even better. Imagine reinvesting that extra 37 hours to find even more CI ideas. Imagine what more you could achieve. Taking some time to identify small changes that could add up to a massive difference on your bottom line. That’s the beauty of continuous improvement – as long as you do it more than once!!


If you are struggling to implement change in your business and would like some support, why not contact Efficient Thinking Solutions today on 01905 380008