If the pandemic has taught organisations anything, it’s that agility is critical when tackling rapidly changing circumstances.

A quick cycle of information and action has proved essential over the course of the COVID-19. Working teams – involving anyone from senior leadership to front-line workers – have been required to stay vigilant and respond to any health-related safety precautions or concerns that arise. And a seamless flow of data across teams is what allows businesses to do just that.

This concept isn’t new to manufacturing — in fact it’s the foundation of Lean, Kaizen and Six Sigma programmes, all of which are driven by a continuous improvement loop. For example, Six Sigma programmes rely heavily on data capture to drive quality improvement. However, the way organisations achieve this still need work.

Distributed teams find themselves communicating on an increasing number of platforms and applications. They may be using one or two apps for messaging within smaller teams, another app for organisation-wide announcements, and another to track production and workflows. This inevitably creates silos of information, when what you really need is an easily accessed 360 view of your production line.

As we forge ahead in the ‘new normal’, organisations that bring all their teams and operations together on one comprehensive platform can improve collaboration, supercharge their continuous improvement programmes and take charge of their own data. And it all starts with building a continuous feedback loop.

What is a continuous feedback loop?

A continuous feedback loop ensures that important information circulates throughout an organisation, reaching exactly the right hands at exactly the right time. Information, after all, is the operational heartbeat of working teams. With it, workers have the confidence to carry out their tasks and leaders can make decisions that better a business.

Ultimately, a continuous feedback loop encompasses four operational elements, including:

  1. Manage – set clear direction for teams and link your core initiatives with your frontline operators through communicative processes.
  2. Plan – identify areas of improvement in the production process for meaningful efficiency gains.
  3. Act – validate improvement projects by carrying out inspections, and identifying issues, near-misses and corrective actions.
  4. Improve – use the data from these actions to institute analytics and discover trends in order to continuously learn, adjust KPIs and upskill teams.

What does a good continuous feedback loop look like?

It takes a long-term commitment to consistent, incremental changes in daily operations for organisations to maximise the benefits of programmes like Lean, Kaizen or Six Sigma. This is where technology comes into play, making it simple to facilitate a system of circulatory knowledge where working teams have visibility over all elements of business operations.

An effective lean program will only be achieved through the engagement of everybody, from the front line to upper management. A customisable tool like iAuditor by SafetyCulture supports the flexibility needed to implement a continuous improvement program that will adjust over time.

How to get started

These programs are really a series of step-by-step process changes, so it can only move forward by asking the right questions, frequently. This is where inspections come in.

With inspections, you can:

  • Define the project, category & section/process
  • Identify the root cause of the problem
  • Capture before/after photo evidence
  • Specify improvement measures
  • Keep track and trend historical documentation

Another key part of initiating a continuous feedback loop is ensuring that all operational data is consolidated into one platform or ‘single source of truth’. This will allow easy cross-communication between departments and a high degree of visibility over anything that needs to be actioned.

Failure points are opportunities for improvement — the key is understanding those defects and adjusting your routine. Use those data points to conduct Root Cause Analysis and uncover the ‘5 Whys’ around an error. Reporting, and trend analysis, as well as standardised monitoring are key to pinpointing improvements that reduce waste. In doing so, organisations can ensure that everyone has access to important data, and nothing is missed.

Another outcome may be opportunities for upskilling. Training is a continuous effort to maximise your team’s ability. Common training topics include One-Point Lessons (OPL), SOPs, and process guidance. With the help of mobile microlearning tools like EdApp by SafetyCulture, you’ll be able to upskill your workforce at large in a fraction of the time.

By putting these mechanisms in place, organisations can foster a unique culture of productivity and engagement, which reverberates through the business and ultimately drives competitive advantage. 

Discover how manufacturing companies like yours are using iAuditor by SafetyCulture to drive operational excellence. Download this report and revamp your operations strategy with emerging industry trends.

About SafetyCulture:

SafetyCulture is the operational heartbeat of working teams around the world. Its mobile-first operations platform leverages the power of human observation to identify issues and opportunities for businesses to improve everyday. More than 28,000 organisations use its flagship products, iAuditor and EdApp, to perform checks, train staff, report issues, automate tasks and communicate fluidly. SafetyCulture powers over 600 million checks per year, approximately 50,000 lessons per day and millions of corrective actions, giving leaders visibility and workers a voice, in driving safety, quality and efficiency improvements.