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PDCA - Continuous improvement

KZK Solutions /kzoli62/
Published by Z. Kovács in Quality · 7 April 2021
In my post today, we are taking a trip to the field of quality assurance. The process described is used in both quality assurance and technical fields and its results are utilized in production.
So let’s see what this acronym means in the title of the post, which is made up of the initial letters of four English words.

1. Theoretical basics

1.1   History

The PDCA was made popular in the world by Dr. W. Edwards Deming, although He always referred to it as the “Shewhart Cycle”. In his later work, he changed the PDCA to PDSA because he thought the word “control” overemphasized observation over analysis.

The concept of PDCA is based on the work of Francis Bacon in 1620 (Novum Organum), the steps of which are “hypothesis” - “experiment” - “evaluation”, or planning, implementation, control. Shewhart defined statistically controlled production as a three - step process consisting of specification, production, and observation, and linked this to the method of hypothesis - experiment - evaluation. According to Deming, during his lectures in Japan in the early 1950s, Japanese participants finalized the steps for today’s planning, implementation, monitoring, and action. Demming preferred PDSA because the English meanings of the word study are closer to Shewhart's intent than the check.

One of the most important principles of the method is repetition - if a hypothesis is confirmed or rejected, we can gain additional new knowledge by starting the cycle again.

Deming has always stressed the importance of spiral repetition of PDCA steps, the essence of which is that the system can always be further improved and during repetitions we always perform the steps at a higher quality level. The basis of this approach is that our knowledge and skills are limited but can be improved. This is especially true at the beginning of a project, when it is possible that key information is not yet available, the application of the PDCA can provide feedback on the existing hypotheses. With this higher level of knowledge, the goals (the expected, ideal state) can be refined and transformed. In each case, the PDCA brings you closer to achieving your goals.

PDCA and scientific problem solving also help develop critical thinking. Toyota and other lean companies say a workforce with a focus on problem-solving and PDCA is more likely to innovate and stay ahead of the competition. PDCA is also closely related to kaizen.

1.2 Theory

The PDCA cycle is a repetitive, four-step management method used to control and continuously improve products and processes. Also known as the Deming cycle or Shewhart cycle as well as the control cycle, the abbreviation PDSA is also used. Another version of the PDCA cycle is the OPDCA, in which the “O” means observation, the study of the present situation, or “the grasp of the present situation”. The PDCA cycle is closely related to the literature on lean production and Toyota’s manufacturing philosophy.

The meaning of the letters in each of the versions mentioned above:

PDCA: plan - planning, do - action, check - control, act - intervention
PDSA: plan - planning, do - implementation, study - learning, act - intervention
OPDCA: observation, observation, plan, planning, do, action, check, act

Each corner point is as follows:

  • Modifying the Process for Better Results (Plan)
  • Implementing the Procedure (Do)
  • Check result (Check)
  • Record Procedure (Action)

This cycle is a continuous, closed circle. After each action, we look for the next repair idea. The activity can be imagined as a spiral, or as circles in a row.

2. Details

If a company has an established system of processes, management must be transformed so that the processes form the basis of operational management. To do this, process management must be assigned to responsible, empowered managers (process managers) and process management must be linked to the strategic and business goal, performance measurement and evaluation system.
Processes are controlled according to the standard PDCA cycle. Management is no longer usually involved in implementation, but by employees at the lower levels of the organization. Management is primarily involved in the Plan (planning, goal setting), Check (control, measurement, accountability) and when processes perceive a problem in the Act (intervention) phases.

Let's look at the points:

  • Plan: Designing the expected performance and defining the objectives and processes to achieve this. Identify the key problems of the existing process and the possibilities of fixing it.
  • Do: Action is the implementation of the plan, the launch of processes, the preparation of the product.
  • Check: The check is to study the current results and compare them with the expected results. In this step, we look for differences between design and implementation and examine the plan in terms of how appropriate and complete it is for feasibility
  • Act: If there are significant differences between actual and planned results, corrective measures should be introduced, this is the step of intervention.

In the regulation of processes, the following important tasks are formulated for the management, from the higher level expectations (strategic goals, expectations of the stakeholders) and based on the abilities of the participants in the processes, appropriate process goals and requirements should be formulated regarding the operation of the processes. To achieve these, the appropriate framework (regulations, process descriptions, requirements) and conditions (availability of resources, availability of information, capabilities) must be provided.

3. How to use it in production

Designing processes is not a simple technical task, as is unfortunately approached by many consulting and advisory firms, as the processes are operated by people and we create (engineering) solutions that seem logically perfect to us if they are not accepted, understood and understood by the actors involved in the process. not complied with. In many companies, it can be seen that the processes described on paper and reality are torn apart.
The regulation of processes is worth as much of them. The goal is not to create a complicated set of rules similar to the legal requirements, no one will be able to know, follow and maintain these rules up to date. Rather, it is advisable to create a system similar to traffic signs, which can provide a visually simple, concise basis for the participants in the process to work efficiently and effectively.

Let's see how this happens in reality:

  • Plan: Production reveals the problem in manufacturing and defines the responsible. It shares this information with the compartments.
  • Do: The responsible or responsible will take the necessary action. They are informed about the manufacturing.
  • Check: Production verifies the results and effectiveness of the measures. If the measure is ineffective, it requires an amendment or amendment.
  • Act: Extending the measure to be effective is also "standardized" for similar areas.

4. PDCA tracking

If you keep improving something, you may lose track of the changes after a while. For this reason, it is recommended that all changes be accurately documented. Suitable programs are also available for this, but can also be done smoothly in Excel.
Engineering / quality assurance can lead the stock digitally, but care must be taken to ensure that production and promotions can be visually inspected at all times.

Next time, I’ll write about a quality assurance topic again.

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