Continuous improvement tools and support mechanisms in australian manufacturing

The level of development of continuous improvement (CI) across all aspects of a firm’s operations provides a significant indicator of a company’s future competitive potential. As a result, a survey of medium and large manufacturing firms in Australia was conducted to determine the main motives for implementing CI and the focus of CI activities. This paper examines the responses of firms using CI, taking into account the stage of development that the firm had reached in their implementation of CI. While some firms were using CI across all aspects of their business and regarded CI as second nature, most firms were in the early stages of development of CI, using it primarily in the manufacturing function at the operational level. This article also reports on the practices of mature firms with the aim of providing useful guidance for developing firms seeking to learn from the experiences of the firms more mature in their usage of CI. In detailing the lessons to be learned, the problem solving tools and the CI support methods used, are of particular significance. Both a supportive culture and a set of common tools have been identified as critical requirements for the successful long term implementation of CI.