Striving for Excellence in Operations

“World Class Manufacturing”, “Lean Manufacturing”, “Continuous Improvement” are all terms we’ve heard for quite some time now but what does it all mean?  How do you know you’ve achieved any of the above while driving improvement in an operation?  How are they measured?

The short answer to all of this is, there are no specific guidelines on the measurements.  Measuring improvement is fairly easy when you’re trying to lose weight but not so easy when you’re striving to make your company more profitable.  Thankfully we’re not wasting time trying to answer those questions; all of our time is spent driving improvement.

We’ve been on our lean journey since 2001 and we’re still learning that there is no ending to finding improvement opportunity!  It really is never-ending.  On this surface it seems easy enough to understand but it really isn’t; it’s something that you have to learn.  An example follows…

Vicor excellence in power component manufacturingThroughout our 15 year journey, we’ve spent thousands of hours studying a manufacturing process to determine how to perfect it.  Block diagrams with every process detail were developed and poured over, improvement plans were developed and then executed.  Machines, conveyors and people were moved to match the plan we painstakingly developed and a new and improved process was in place.  We’d achieved the success we’d hoped for… as the saying goes life is good!

In manufacturing a more appropriate saying might be – life is good until something changes. Here’s the thing we had to remember and adjust to…  Something always changes.

Continuous improvement simply means you’re never done because of change.  In the early days it was very difficult to see the process you spent countless hours on improving go through its first customer visit to hear “wouldn’t it be better if..…”?  These are discouraging words to hear if you don’t have a continuous improvement mindset but if you’ve done a good job learning the concepts stated above and you are truly striving for excellence your next though should be good point, how can we make this better.

Striving for Excellence can’t work without a passion for continuous improvement – they are one in the same.


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