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The Work of ContinuoUs Improvement

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As you start to learn about Lean Manufacturing, it becomes clear that there are a plethora of methodologies and tools out there under the banner of Lean. It’s easy to get overwhelmed. It reminds me of my younger years, visiting the local hardware store with my father who was a general contractor. Walking in to that old store, there were countless shelves packed with hardware, tools, pipes, gadgets, lumber, paint and lightbulbs. It was enough to stop 8-year-old me in my tracks. Somehow, my father always knew exactly what he needed and exactly where to find it. He had two things I didn’t have: familiarity and experience. Familiarity with the store enabled him to go exactly where he needed to go. Experience told him exactly what he would need. In other words, he knew the right tool for the job and where to get it.

When you make the commitment to start a culture of ContinuoUs Improvement in your shop, it’s a commitment to get to work. Changing a culture doesn’t happen on accident – meaningful change always happens on purpose. So, what is the work of ContinuoUs Improvement?

The simplest definition of the work of ContinuoUs Improvement is this: learn to see waste in your processes and work daily towards eliminating it. To make it cultural, bring others with you and create an environment where people are eager to share their ideas with each other. That’s it. Put even more simply:

  1. Learn

  2. Work

  3. Record

  4. Share

Illustration showing the work of continuous improvement: learn, work, record, share
The Work of CI: learn, work, record, share

Let’s break down each step a little further.


Learn to see waste. Wastefulness takes many forms and in order for us to know how to reduce or eliminate it, we first have to be able to identify it. The first step is understanding the Eight Wastes and how they appear in your shop. Those wastes are: Transportation, Inventory, Motion, Waiting, Over-Processing, Over-Production, Defects and Unused potential. Then we learn which parts of our process are truly valuable and which activities produce little to no value. When we learn how to identify these things in our work place, we have developed what we call Lean Eyes – we are able to see waste.


Here comes the work part. Once we have learned how to identify waste in our processes, we must work to reduce or eliminate. We want to remove the things we do that don’t add value so that we can maximize the things we do which add value to our products. This is the area where we must look at the work we are trying to achieve in order to select the proper tools for the job. You wouldn’t try to bead duct with a hammer. Selecting the proper tool is key to success in removing waste from your process. An equally important part of work is that we must commit to the daily work of reducing waste. Just like exercise, you won’t see results if you do it every once in a while. You have to develop the habit of working to reduce waste every day in the processes you do. Everyone can do this, no matter if you stand at a machine or sit behind a desk. There is waste in everything we do.


Record your processes and record your progress. Nothing is established until it is written out, photographed, or recorded. If you want your improvements to stick, want your training to be consistent, want your work to be predictable, you have to set down recorded, concrete standards for how your processes should be done. Not only does it give you a great frame of reference, it serves as a launch pad for future improvements and a guide post for when you get off track.


Share your genius! Just as much as we have ideas for how we can reduce waste and improve our processes, others have ideas for their areas. To develop a successful ContinuoUs Improvement culture, encourage others to share their ideas, victories and struggles. Encourage openness and humility on your team and foster teamwork and masterminding. You’ll be surprised how even seemingly irrelevant ideas spark creativity and innovation. Don’t reinvent the wheel – share it!

ContinuoUs Improvement doesn’t need to be any more complicated than that. If we master the work of ContinuoUs Improvement, the effect on productivity and throughput is massive. Not only that, morale goes through the roof as people realize you value them for more than just their ability to swing a hammer.

Familiarity and experience are keys to your success. Even if you are just getting started in your journey, you’re not alone. At the HVAC Duct Manufacturers Association, we have spent years refining ContinuoUs Improvement techniques and are familiar with what tools work best for our industry. We are also experienced, with thousands of dollars and hours of labor saved across our member companies. We invite you to come along with us as you start your ContinuoUs Improvement journey and let us guide you down the path of operational excellence.

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