Continuous Improvement: Structure, Teams and Equipment

So, how do we go about this continuous improvement challenge? Do we rush out and buy new equipment or employ a new team, or do we sit down and take a good hard look at ourselves, what we have and how well we’re using it.

Looking at the manufacturing industry, specifically beverage, food and pharmaceuticals, there is an ever-increasing focus on Consumer / patient safety, in terms of compliance standards for product quality and design / operation of factories, laboratories, warehousing and distribution networks getting higher and higher every day. This obviously impacts on the cost of manufacture and therefore the cost of the product to the consumer. Most companies are spending their money on upgrading facilities just to be able to remain in the business and can’t afford the extra investment needed to buy the latest process and packing equipment in order to improve quality and delivery to the market. This is where our opportunity lies, and where we can improve with minimal investment and achieve a greater ROI by optimising the structures, teams and equipment we have.

These 3 areas, are vitally important to your organization and business, and need to be “synchronized” to achieve optimum performance. Let’s unpack them one by one, so that we can understand their importance and interdependency.


Structures 2Is top of the list, because we need to ensure that the environment we operate in supports everything we do. Policies are a good example of this, if your part of your vision is to create a team-based organization but your policies make it very onerous for cross departmental collaboration, or you espouse education and training, but when the going gets tough this is the first budget to be cut, your systemic structures are limiting your business. Using the metaphor of the fish tank, you need to make sure that you are continually maintaining water quality so that your fish can prosper. Although people seldom see the water in the tank, it is a critical element of the ecosystem and a loss of attention will result in fish only trying to survive, losing their colour and everything that made us put them in the tank in the first place.


Teamwork 10By necessity, an Operations division is made up of various departments created around technical roles necessary to the delivery of a quality and safe product to market. These can be compared to shoals of specific fish species, they stick together, don’t mix with others and are often territorial. If we don’t create organizational policies specifically to drive cross functional integration, you can easily have departments driving myopic agendas to the detriment of the organization as a whole. Team based learning organizations thrive on cross functional integration and interdependency that works towards the goal of compliant productivity. There are several philosophies and approaches to achieving this and most follow the same basic precepts in breaking down barriers, creating a safe environment for ideas generation, and where people respect each other and listen before they speak, Openness and honesty, where failure initiates an investigation of the system rather than persecution of individuals is the best setting for innovation and growth. There are agreed rules and guidelines that govern interaction between departments and these are set and committed to be all members of the team. Each team has measures or KPI’s that are fully aligned to the overall company objective, and each department’s objectives are aligned to and fully support the team KPI’s.


production equipment 1When we have the Structures and teams aligned to the Company vision, strategy and goals, it becomes very easy to optimise the machine performance. This takes team focus, time and some financial commitment to make changes that consistently improve performance. Team commitment to never accepting second best will ensure that we get that additional 10% – 15% throughput per shift, allowing more time for training, maintenance and OD initiatives. In the next 3 articles we will expand on the topics touched on to better understand what is required in each area.

If you want to optimize your supply chain and operations performance and would like to chat further, please contact Dave at SA Coaching  You can also follow Dave on LinkedIn and SA Coaching to get the notification of articles as they are published.

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