iSixSigma

Pi

Definition of Pi:

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We all know that this value in mathematics is all about circles and is famously represented by 3.14 even though it is, in fact, a number that never actually ends. In the manufacturing world, there is a much more recent definition.

Overview: What is perpetual improvement (Pi)?

When you see a reference to this term in discussions of manufacturing management, it could be referencing the manufacturing management system designed by David Wilkerson. With this system, it stands for perpetual improvement. It focuses on each team member moving towards a perpetual improvement of every aspect in their workflow. This includes everything from processes to performance. It also works at the conclusion of any project or milestone. Perpetual improvement can involve members of a team sitting down at the conclusion of a project to assess what worked, what did not, where improvements can be made, and what can be eliminated. Through these consistent tweaks, each undertaking of a project should see increased improvement and the potential for increased profitability.

3 benefits of perpetual improvement (Pi)

There are several benefits to this concept for your business:

1. Engagement

Increased engagement of team members leads to happier team members and a better-run business. By having their voices heard and showing that their input is valuable, your team members are much more likely to maintain an interest in the integrity of how a project runs.

2. Time management

By immediately sitting down to go over how the project ran and taking detailed notes for the next one, you save a lot of time. It can be difficult to recall all the myriad details of the project later if they have not all been already notated. It also takes a lot of the time out of the guesswork inherent in trying to replicate what worked or did not work previously.

3. Customer satisfaction

By having a focus on perpetual improvement, you are much more likely to have more satisfied customers that keep returning.

Why is perpetual improvement (Pi) important to understand?

Perpetual improvement is important to understand for the following reasons:

1. Eliminates waste

By understanding perpetual improvement and how to make it a focus of your projects, you are more likely to find ways to eliminate waste through your own observations about a project as well as the observations of your team members.

2. Efficiency

By making knowledge of perpetual improvement a priority, you are more likely to find ways to make every aspect of your workflow more efficient.

3. A path to the future of your business

By understanding perpetual improvement, you can see a long-term roadmap for where your business can go through the consistent betterment of processes over time.

An industry example of perpetual movement (Pi)

A manufacturing company has its annual corporate retreat for staff and shareholders every year. At the conclusion of each event, a team is organized of some of the staff and a few key shareholders to go over all aspects of the retreat. One of the team members is assigned the task of noting all of the input of the team in regards to the successes of the event, where improvements could be made, what aspects seemed arbitrary, and how things could be run more efficiently. This brainstorming is then reviewed when planning the next year’s retreat. Year after year, the event shows perpetual improvement.

3 best practices when thinking about perpetual improvement (Pi)

There are a few key practices to consider when thinking about Pi and how it can improve how your business is run.

1. Create an environment of open communication

Be sure to foster an environment when brainstorming where all ideas are given a voice. Your team members are all unique, and some of them may have some outside-the-box possibilities to present. A few of these ideas might point the way toward innovations in the processes of your organization that will lead to improvements that could not have been foreseen.

2. There is always room to improve

Do not get into a mindset where you believe that there is no more room to improve. There is always room to improve somewhere, even if the how may not be immediately apparent. This is one of the foremost reasons for having a team involved in the assessment. Some creative members may see ways to improve that others do not.

3. Make it enjoyable

This sort of brainstorming should not feel like a slog to your team members. If they are having a good time, you are more likely to get engagement from them and better ideas.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about perpetual improvement (Pi)

1. Is Kaizen related to this?

They both focus on establishing a culture of consistent and continual improvement.

2. How does TQM figure into perpetual improvement?

Perpetual or continuous improvement is a cornerstone facet of total quality management.

3. How does perpetual improvement relate to the mathematical value of π?

There is a symbolic relationship in that the value of π only begins with 3.14, but actually is neverending. Such is also the case with perpetual improvement, as it is ongoing.

Perpetual improvement as a goal of your business

Perpetual improvement should always be a goal of your business. You can always improve your customer service, you can always improve your processes, and you can always make your business run better. Improvement does not need to be fast and drastic, either. It can be incremental and gradual. Focusing on long-term and continuous improvements can help ensure that the changes made are deliberate and will stick.

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