Cheese Factory Innovation and Continuous Improvement

Definition and Relevance

Continuous improvement is the planned, organized and systematic process of ongoing, incremental and sustained organizational-wide changes of production processes or work practices aimed at enhancing the performance and competitive advantage of the organization using lower-level company personnel to avoid necessarily incurring huge investments (Middel et al 2006; Marin-Garcia & Poueda 2010). As the case study demonstrates, continuous improvement is relevant in assisting the organization to survive in a more competitive and demanding environment, successfully manage change processes, and deal with genuine threats to business (Case Study n.d.). Available literature also demonstrates that continuous improvement initiatives enhance the linking of a firm’s internal processes with external customers and suppliers (Middel et al 2006), and promotes new products or services development (Marin-Garcia & Poueda 2010).

Techniques of Continuous Improvement

There exists a multiplicity of techniques by which organizations can undertake continuous improvement, including lean manufacturing, six sigma approach, and total quality management (Burton, 2011). From the case study, it is evident that the ‘Cheese Factory’ was undertaking total quality management (TQM) initiatives to improve processes in cheese and crop management, cheese making, storage, customer service, sales and marketing, and finance and administration (Case Study n.d). TQM, which mostly focuses on improving customer service and reducing waste in the business, employs problem-solving techniques and analysis to discover and eradicate weaknesses in the organization (Kelchner 2012). While TQM has the obvious advantages of not only lowering the production costs by eliminating defects and wastes, but also enhancing the capacity for companies to have a firm market share in the ever competitive marketplace and enhancing employee participation, it is often faced with problems of production disruption and employee resistance (Kelchner 2012). Additionally, many companies undertake TQM as a cure-all program rather as an enabler for continuous improvement, thereby failing to achieve the intended organizational and business outcomes (Burton 2011).

Developing & Implementing Continuous Improvement

The problem solving technique associated with TQM, according to Tidd et al (2005), consists of several stages, including identifying the problem, defining the issues, exploring, selecting the best alternative, implementing the alternative, and reviewing. The problem with the ‘Cheese Factory’, it seems, was lack of a platform to demonstrate how the business was changing and if the changes were just latent or they enhanced its competitive advantage (Case Study n.d.). Consequently, issues that need to be defined comprise how Papa Rondo’s business had evolved to face changes in the internal and external environment, and if these changes were increasing the company’s competitiveness. In selecting the best solution, the company must ‘close down’ and attempt to focus from a wide range of options to come up with the best option to drive its improvement initiatives (Tidd et al 2005). In the case scenario, the company may choose to focus on enhanced customer service to market its products more effectively and efficiently, thus maintain competitive advantage. This solution, if selected, then needs to be implemented by embedding it in the organizational structure and culture, and continual evaluations and review undertaken to demonstrate its effectiveness or need for revision (Colledani et al 2010).

Evaluating & Improving Continuous Improvement

A good process for evaluating continuous improvement initiatives, according to Burton (2011), is to develop quantifiable and achievable benchmarks through which to measure success. In choosing to undertake enhanced customer service, for example, the ‘Cheese Factory’ can formulate customer targets and satisfaction levels for the next six months and then follow up the projection to see if its been met and if its impacting positively on the company’s competitive advantage. Improvement can be done through employee education, awareness and training (Burton, 2011).

Reference List

Burton, T.T 2011, ‘Improve how you improve’, Industrial Engineer, vol. 43 no. 8, pp. 48-53.

Case Study n.d., Manage innovation and continuous Improvement, Web.

Colledani, M, Ekvall, M, Lundholm, T, Moriggi, P, Polato, A & Tolio, T 2010, ‘Analytical methods to support continuous improvement at Scania’, International Journal of Production Research, vol. 48 no. 7, pp. 1913-1945.

Kelchner, L 2012, Advantages and disadvantages of total quality management, Web.

Marin-Garcia, J.A & Poueda, Y.B 2010, ‘The implementation of a continuous improvement project at a Spanish marketing company: A case study’, International Journal of Management, vol. 27 no. 3, pp. 593-606.

Middel, R, Boer, H & Fisscher, O 2006, ‘Continuous improvement and collaborative improvement: Similarities and differences’, Creativity & Innovation Management, vol. 15 no. 4, pp. 338-347.

Tidd, J, Bessant, J & Pavitti, K 2005, Continuous improvement: Specific techniques, Web.