Continuous Improvement Tracking

Skill level: Intermediate

Description

Continuous improvement tracking (CIT) is part of an overall continuous improvement model.

Within the Six Sigma method, the overall model is DMAIC (define, measure, analyze, improve, and control). What’s important about this model as it applies to tracking is its closed-loop nature. As improvements are defined and implemented, selecting appropriate metrics is critical so that improvements can be tracked and verified.

Tracking tools need to be responsive enough so that they can detect the effectiveness of the improvements as well as the unintended consequences. Many tools are available and can be used to implement CIT, including control charts, histograms, trend analysis, etc.

Benefits

  • Allows for the measurement of improvement impact
  • Can measure unintended effects
  • Provides feedback for future improvements
  • Allows for tuning of improvements

How to Use

  • Step 1.  Select an overall improvement methodology.
  • Step 2.  Define an improvement project.
  • Step 3.  Measure current performance, carefully selecting metrics and measurement methodologies. (The resulting metrics and methodologies can be leveraged in Step 6.)
  • Step 4.  Analyze the results and develop solutions.
  • Step 5.  Implement improvements using the learning from the analysis.
  • Step 6.  Control the process using the metrics.
  • Step 7.  Feedback to step 4 and repeat (this is the essence of the tracking part).

Relevant Definitions

Six Sigma: A method of continuous improvement using the DMAIC stages.

Plan, do, check, act (PDCA): A four-step process improvement methodology.

Example

Big Bank Inc. implemented a new electronic deposit and withdrawal system for walk-in customers after analyzing customer satisfaction and transaction effectiveness. The bank had defined the project to increase speed and accuracy of customer transactions through the use of an electronic forms system. The system would rely on customers swiping their bank cards and then electronically checking a few boxes. Then, a form indicating the type and amount of the transaction would be printed. The project was implemented at several branch banks, and improvement was measured based on average transaction time and form errors.

After several weeks, the data showed a marked improvement in capturing the right information from customers’ cards. The improvement led to fewer errors and decreased the average transaction time.

However, several new issues were uncovered by analyzing the results.

  • First, when the transaction printer broke, the entire system would become non-functional, causing increased transaction times and general customer frustration. This information was fed back to the team, making printer reliability a key component of the improvement. The team corrected the problem by duplicating the transaction printers to ensure at least one working printer at all times.
  • Second, much of the printed information on the customers’ transaction slips was being retyped by the teller. The bank improved the system further by printing a bar code on each slip. When presented to the teller, the bar code could be used to retrieve all of the information from the bank’s database. This further increased the system’s effectiveness in terms of transaction accuracy and speed.
  • The final step was that that the bank developed an on-going monitoring process to track the process and continue increasing efficiency and effectiveness.

 

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