Process improvement in nine steps

Process improvement is a common practice in many different industries and organizations. Improvement methods like LEAN, Agile, and Six Sigma support continuous improvement in the manufacturing industry, logistics, construction, and many other sectors. Even if the companies differ substantially, the improvement process follows a standard route

The purpose of process improvement

In general, process improvement helps you to work more efficiently. By eliminating waste, you can improve.

Specific company goals may vary in each situation. Do you want to be the fastest within your industry? Do you want to improve quality? Do you want to deliver more at a lower price? These goals determine the focus of your improvement process.

Improving your process in nine steps

When you have a clear view of your company goals, it is time to determine which factors inside the process prevent you from reaching them.

Use these nine steps to get lasting improvements:

  1. Chart the process you want to improve. The scope of the process determines the way in which you do it. Do you want to examine the entire company process or only a part of it?

    Technieken als VSM (Value Stream Mapping), Makigami of een Procesmap zijn uitstekende instrumenten hiervoor.

    VSM (Value Stream Mapping): VSM analyses the flow of information or goods within the process. It distinguishes between the main process flow and the supporting processes. VSM is often used in the manufacturing industry and is part of Six Sigma. Read more about applying VSM.

    Makigami: Makigami is about processing information and is often used to chart information flows. It distinguishes between actions, documents and systems, time analysis, and bottlenecks. Read more about applying Makigami.

    Process Mapping: Process Mapping is a straightforward method to detail a process. It uses different basic symbols (ovals, rectangles, arrows) to give a visual process overview at a micro-level. Read more on Process Mapping.

  2. Indicate the relation to prior and subsequent processes – insofar that has not been done in step one. To improve your process, you need to follow it from start to finish, from manufacturer, through supply, to customer delivery.
  3. Determine waste within the process. What has added value, what does not? Are the causes of waste planned or unplanned?
  4. Use Pareto’s on waste. The Pareto Principle (or 80-20 rule) focuses on the variable with the biggest influence. When 80% of waste comes from just 20% of the causes, then it is most effective to target that 20%. That’s why this step is all about prioritizing: from big to small, from frequent to incidental.
  5. Visualize the current state. Where do you stand right now? Chart and visualize all currently undiscovered issues.
  6. Determine the ideal state. Where do you want to go? What would your process look like in an ideal world with no waste?
  7. Compare the ideal and current state. Translate the differences into issues and place them in an impact/effort matrix. Develop a matrix with effort (time, money, risks) on one axis and impact (lower or higher impact on the goals) on the other axis. Visualizing the issues in a matrix shows which issues should have priority.

  1. Turn insight into action: realize improvements with improvement activities and improvement teams. Read more on this in our blog: Four steps to go from improvement opportunity to improvement activity.
  1. Keep on managing improvement and waste until the ideal state has been reached. Each issue from the impact/effort matrix actually brings you closer to your goal!

PDCA and process improvement

Our nine improvement steps generally follow the well-known PDCA cycle (Plan, Do, Check, Act). PDCA is also a continuous, cyclical improvement strategy. Securing standards is often overlooked, even though it is an essential part of lasting improvements.

Easy improving with Cierpa Software

Cierpa develops software to support improvement processes. This way, Cierpa OEE assists you in identifying waste and discovering the underlying reason. Cierpa Kaizen not only sorts your improvement activities with PDCA in mind but also secures your new standards.

Do you want to see how it works in practice? Are you looking for experienced support to introduce the process? Cierpa has a network of independent consultants we can connect you with. We also organize company visits and workshops so you can experience improvement. Call or email us for more information.



Cierpa Software enables you to improve your organization continuously. LEAN manufacturing changes your work floor processes towards better and faster results and ultimately reduces any waste. With our LEAN software for companies, it’s possible to manage this ongoing process quickly and easily. Our Cierpa improvement consultants can also offer help.

Techniques and methods like 5S audit, Kaizen, OEE and the underlying LEAN thought principles are at the very core of our software suite. With Cierpa OEE, Cierpa Kaizen, Cierpa Quality, Cierpa Competence and Cierpa Assessment, Cierpa Software really speeds up all your improvement processes!

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Process improvement in nine steps