Manufacturing organizations have been bombarded with initiatives that promise continuous improvement and yet after twenty plus years of initiative after initiative, the reality has at best been incremental improvements.
It seems when problems appear the path to solution is to replace parts and get the equipment back into production. Others may take some time to use the '5 why' or 'fish bone' problem solving process to obtain a solution. Either way, it is tagged as continuous improvement and has really not delivered the kinds of improvements that make a difference on the bottom line. In many cases, the problems are not even solved because they reappear at at later date.
Incremental improvements are more or less feel good measures that say to management “see, there was a problem and we did this to solve it. We have complied and improved the process.” In reality, most continuous improvements have come from technology advancements and not from employee performance advancements.
Has the continuous improvement mentality caused manufacturing to settle for mediocrity? Incremental improvements are for those who merely want to get by and not for those who want to make a difference.
To make a difference, one must change the attitude of organizations from incremental improvements to quantum leaps forward, from technology advancements to human performance advancements and from problem solution to problem elimination. Technology will continue to advance and people will continue to solve problems. When human performance increases together with technology and problem elimination, quantum leaps forward will result.
The only way to attain quantum leaps forward and avoid mediocrity is through a holistic approach to reliability. The reliability approach must not be a maintenance function, it must be a corporate initiative that encompasses all sites and all departments. It must use Proaction, Focus, and Priority as the tools to gain Equipment, Process, and Human reliability.
Without proaction, focus, and priority organizations will continue to be directed by reactive events rather than creating their own planned paths to meeting organizational goals.