Continuous, integrative improvement process optimizes digital capability


“Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection,” said the nineteenth-century American writer, publisher and humorist Mark Twain.

Twain is less well-known as an entrepreneur and an inventor with three patents to his name, and for his fascination with technology. He would have marveled at the modern world of manufacturing. He would have appreciated how digital systems expand the capabilities of the enterprise – and he would have insisted that the discipline of continuous improvement be incorporated to unleash digital’s potential.

Today, next generation, digitally-based production systems – or digital operating systems (DOS) – are already prevalent among leading manufacturing entities. They blend and harmonize the smart technologies of Industry 4.0 with the traditional practices of Lean manufacturing. They seek to create a highly efficient, agile, demand-driven value network which leverages competitive advantage and returns, and is fit for purpose in the new paradigm of manufacturing.

We should acknowledge, however, that digital’s complexity and connectivity, the blizzard of data extraction and analysis it generates, and its associated quantum leaps of technological progress, can overwhelm and stifle – rather than unleash – the potential benefits sought from digital systems. Even world-class operations may stutter in sustaining impetus and performance levels enabled by DOS. In the context of our digitized yet volatile and uncertain business environment, organizations require a means to consistently focus and re-prioritise business strategies, to streamline their implementation, and to constantly assess and re-gear their delivery according to objectives. The practice of continuous and integrative improvement is that method.

From continuous to integrative improvement

Continuous improvement is a tenet of Lean because it pushes a perpetual loop of measured gains – in operational efficiencies, processes and outcomes, in financial delivery, or towards innovation. And, overall, it instils a culture of performance excellence. The Japanese philosophy of kaizen, integral to the success of Lean, traditional production systems, literally means ‘good change’ – a practical call for everyone in the organization to strive, constantly, to do things better.

This is particularly important during a manufacturer’s migration to a digitized production system. To optimize a modern production system, the organization must strive for digital maturity. As a discipline, integrative improvement necessitates a strategic approach; in so doing, it fuses digitization across the entire organization and coheres incremental gains in synch with overall business objectives.

Essentially, integrative improvement is the evolution of continuous improvement to embed kaizen throughout the digitized manufacturing operations as well as the extended end-to-end value network.

Planning for the right integrative improvement system

An organization with a fitting and effective integrative improvement system is able to steer the appropriate pace of DOS transition. Technology adoption is phased and scaled to match identified goals; data-centricity is embedded; organizational silos are intentionally collapsed as the organization orients to an expansive, collaborative outlook. A modern production system, properly implemented and driven by integrative improvement processes, evolves into an extended value-driven digital ecosystem with a digital culture. All-round, it is significantly better able to deliver high performance and excel at customer-centricity.

These are key indicators and landmarks on the path to digital maturity. The transition is a journey, and each organization will have unique characteristics, requiring bespoke integrative improvement solutions.

Planning, best practices, and the right integrative improvement system make perfect.

DOS implementational success

We know, intuitively and empirically, that making small improvements over time builds into significant overall improvement; , habituated performance-enhancing initiatives create the platform for major gains in outcomes. Striving for consistent, continuous improvement is the bedrock for achievement – in sports and science, in businesses and societies, toward personal or organizational goals.

So too in manufacturing. And, when the discipline and principles of continuous improvement are combined with the capabilities of modern production systems, the benefits can be transformational.

Download CCi’s comprehensive white paper on modern production systems, and how to implement them using continuous improvement methods to drive performance and maximize ROI.

CCi is a privately held global company that enables organizations to deliver sustainable results across the value chain through TRACC, a solution for continuous, integrated improvement.