The PDCA cycle – getting better bit by bit

A concrete way of achieving continuous improvement.

Lean production has become firmly established – and that’s true in Europe, too. The idea of doing away with entrenched thinking and paying attention to seemingly minor details has breathed new life into industrial production. The lean philosophy also gives greater appreciation to individual employees – after all, they are the ones who know best where waste is produced. Sometimes, though, the crowd of abstract jargon, often virtually incomprehensible, can obscure the view of what the lean movement is actually about. To prevent this, the focus of this blog entry is the PDCA cycle, which illustrates how processes can be optimized.

The PDCA principle – a firm part of CIP

First the basics. One of the founding principles of lean production is Kaizen. This word is a portmanteau from the Japanese Kai, meaning “change”, and Zen, meaning “for the better”, and describes an attitude firmly anchored in Japanese culture. There is, therefore, a concrete goal behind it – to improve the current situation and make it better.

In the course of lean production, this became the continuous improvement process (CIP). This is expressly designed to continuously drive forward change and avoid waste (Muda). However, this inevitably gives rise to some key questions. How exactly can this be achieved? Where is the best place to start? The PDCA cycle, made up of the points “plan”, “do”, “check” and “act” integrated into CIP provides precise answers to this.

How the PDCA cycle works

The individual steps of the PDCA principle are made up of the following tasks:

Plan – Take a good look and try and find processes that need improvement. This should not happen in an office, but rather on site (Gemba), and in close collaboration with employees. Use this evaluation as a basis to draw up a concrete plan for getting the continuous improvement process underway.

Do – Try not to overdo it. The idea is not to change everything overnight. Start small and try simple things first. This is the only way to gain the experience and knowledge that will make it possible to take on larger projects.

Check – Evaluation is everything. What worked and what didn’t? Would it be worthwhile expanding any of the tactics to the entire company? Go through all the measures you have implemented and create an analysis. Only once you have this foundation is it worth taking a look at the bigger picture.

Act – Only now does it come to a major implementation. Implement wide-ranging measures, document them, and test their success. This step might also include workshops or acquiring new equipment. The process then begins again from the start.

The Deming cycle – a roundabout way to success

A quick excursion into the past helps to understand the PDCA cycle better. It was originally known as the Deming cycle, and was named after the American physicist and statistician William Edwards Deming (1900-1993). To truly get back to the beginning, however, we have to go even further back. Deming’s idea was inspired by his teacher Walter Andrew Shewhart (1891-1967), who came up with a concept for improving production processes in the 1930s. He presented this in a course and also immortalised it in a publication.

Shewhart’s cycle was based on the process steps “specification”, “production” and “inspection”, and Deming came across it during his studies. This cycle already involved a dynamic, continuous process. Deming was so impressed by his teacher’s ideas that he developed and refined it, creating the PDCA cycle. This even gave rise to a fertile collaboration. Deming eventually ensured that Shewart’s ideas became popular in Japan after the Second World War. The PDCA principle and its role in CIP is a perfect example of how successful a symbiosis of oriental and European concepts can be.

Would you like to keep up-to-date with the world of lean production? Then we have something that might just help: Simply subscribe to the item blog by completing the box at the top right!

 

2017-10-25T14:06:35+00:00October 25th, 2017|Industries|
Read more:
KJ Cocke, engineering manager at item West
Multiple perspectives are key for innovation

Ergonomics at the work bench
Ergonomics at the work bench – what Industry 4.0 has in store

19. Dec 2018 item Redaktion Once more the year is almost over and the holidays are fast approaching. All the more reason to look back at the blog highlights of 2018. At the same time, we’re signing off for a short Christmas break. After the over-indulgent festivities of the holiday season, the item blog kicked off the new year with an introduction to lean production methods. This is a great place to get an overview of lean terminology. Two more posts at the beginning of the year continued the lean theme. The first was about RWTH Aachen University, which had launched a practical course that teaches students lean assembly on a U-shaped cell. The second was on the CETPM and its new building, where a “Lean 4.0 lab” with integrated Karakuri solution enables an even better form of lean training. Becoming more efficient with digital engineering In the spring, our post “Digital engineering – designing online made simple” was the springboard for an issue that would come to shape 2018 for item. The item Engineeringtool, which is continuously growing, allows users to design 3D constructions using item components from the comfort of their web browser – without having to install any additional software. This means standard tasks can be completed more quickly, and even users with no previous experience find the whole design and configuration process easy. Florian Palatini, head of sales, was the subject of our interview with an expert, and this further expanded on the topic of digital engineering. Networking between design engineers and projects is at the heart of this, which means that engineers are increasingly taking on the role of a project manager. Other posts were devoted to data security in the face of digitalisation in the mechanical engineering sector and a basic explanation of what digitalisation actually is. The entire world of item Alongside these insights into the mechanical engineering of the future, we still stayed true to our roots. For example, we went back to Solingen in the 1970s and the origins of the MB Building Kit System. Shortly after, we dedicated a whole post to expounding the benefits of aluminium profiles. These benefits are particularly obvious in comparison with steel, as only three process steps are required instead of eight. Plus, aluminium is far lighter than steel, while also being very strong and exceptionally corrosion-resistant. The quality of fasteners for aluminium profiles is also of vital importance in this context. Thanks to our quality policy, we are able to provide targeted assistance to our customers in successfully meeting the challenges of specialist mechanical engineering. Stylish and functional We are always fascinated by the unusual ways our solutions are used. For example, we were particularly impressed by the world’s largest 360-degree display in the Autostadt Wolfsburg. The basic construction uses curved profiles from the MB Building Kit System. In the Sivasdescalzo sneaker store in Barcelona, our profile technology is not just to be found in the frame structure of the shelving. Used in the place of steps and to form display platforms, it also adds to the store’s stunning look. Munich-based start-up Spyra has also taken a liking to our profiles, which offer a flexibility and stability that turned out to be perfect for the prototype and a test channel for the innovative Spyra One water pistol. We hope this year’s blog posts about solutions, applications and people from the world of item have been a useful source of inspiration. We’d like to wish all our readers, customers and partners a very happy festive season and a great start to the new year! We’re taking a little break, but will be back after the holidays, with the first article for 2019 on 9 January. Previous article Digitalisation in layman’s terms Categories Latest Posts Archive Research Know-how News Industries People via E-Mail Don´t miss a new blog article!
Best of 2018 – our annual review

Close