Companies, especially in the manufacturing industry, are always trying to find new ways of operating while getting rid of the ones that are found to add little or no value at all. Increased productivity by reducing inefficiencies and waste is a direct result of using a process termed Continuous Improvement (CI) (Cagliano et al. 2005). The Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA) Cycle, also know as the Deming Cycle, is a model used in CI. By using the PDCA Cycle, or a form of it, companies and firms will continuously improve upon existing procedures and policies while developing new ones.
The (Plan) phase of the cycle is where current procedures and results of those procedures are looked at in order to identify specific problems. Using other tools and techniques such as cause and effect diagrams, brainstorming, and flowcharting, will help generate ideas for solving these afore mentioned problems. A plan for setting these ideas in motion is then ready for testing. Implementing the plan and measuring its performance is the (do) phase of the cycle. On a small scale, the designed changes should be set in place. This is to insure that the normal order of business is not greatly affected while ideas are being tested. Results should be looked at (Check) while testing is in progress. This phase consists of assessing and reporting the results of the scaled down tests. Are the desired results being generated and have any new problems surfaced from the implementation phase. A control chart or graph analysis may be used for better understanding. It may be determined that the experiment didn't work and in such a case the PDCA cycle should be repeated at this point. If good results are found, then it is time to look at changing policy. The final piece is diffusing the results and making the new practice into a standard (Act) (Cagliano et al. 2005). A return to the planning step of the model, by testing the new standards with new ideas for improvements, starts the cycle all over again....
References: Cagliano, R, Camiato, F, Corso, M, Spina, G. Production Planning & Control; June 2005, Vol. 16 Issue 4, p.345-355.
Soderborg, Nathan. Design For Six Sigma at Ford; Six Sigma Forum Magazine, February 2003.
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