ABSTRACT This paper describes a study with the objectives of understanding which improvement tools produce the best effects in given situations. Enterprises were asked to provide experiences with different improvement tools. In the analysis of the survey data, improvement was defined as a function of; (1) actions, (2) variable attributes of the improvement situation, and (3) non-variable attributes of the enterprise. A correlation analysis was undertaken that revealed many findings. Several very strong correlation factors were found linking some of these three factors to improvement results achieved. Six different mechanisms of interplay between factors were identified that seemed to govern the improvement outcome. Finally, a ranking of the tools was established based on the improvement effects. These findings were merged into one improvement toolbox presenting enterprises with guidelines to which tools to select and how to apply them to maximize the probability for success.
Bj\u00f8rn Andersen, Ph.D., is an associate professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, Norway as well as scientific advisor to the research foundation SINTEF. During his doctorate studies, he spent eight months at Rochester Institute of Technology working on the subject of benchmarking and the results achievable through use of the tool. He has co-authored and authored several books and papers and has been involved in or managed several research and implementation projects on benchmarking, quality improvement, productivity, and material and production management during the last years.
As everyone working with quality improvement and process innovations knows, there are a very large number of different improvement tools or philosophies available for use. In Norway, many, if not most, of these tools or philosophies have been applied in enterprises around the country. However, very little work has been undertaken to analyze the use and results achieved in actual implementations of them. Based on the resulting lack of understanding of which tools seem to work better and what factors seem to govern the success of an implementation of a tool or philosophy, a small study was undertaken during the first half of 1997 to capture such experiences.
systematic. Such a classification could have been done in a number of ways, but possible areas generating competitive advantage were seen as a good starting point. Seven main areas were listed which, if a company were to excel within, was believed to lead to some form of competitive edge compared to competitors:
Time, especially delivery time and delivery precision.
The customers\u2019 perceptions of quality and service.
The use and flow of information.
Strategy and vision.
Process orientation and process flow.
Overview and control with operations.
To classify the improvement tools and philosophies, they were attempted grouped according to which of these seven areas they would mainly contribute to when being applied. This list is far from complete, but reflects the most widely used tools and philosophies in Norway currently. Furthermore, some tools obviously contribute to many of the seven areas for competitive advantage. The area each single tool has been assigned to merely reflects the most predominant feature. For the complete list of tools considered in this study, see the list below.
When reviewing this list, it is obvious that it represents a rather unstructured blend of tools and philosophies that work at different levels in the organization. To clarify the differences further, they were also placed in appropriate cells in the pyramid shown in Figure 1.
SMED, Concurrent Engineering, DFA/DFM, TPM, SPC,
ABC, Work unit analysis, Idealization, Incentive programs,
Work environment programs
As part of the study, a detailed literature search was conducted and in-depth descriptions of each tool and philosophy were generated. For those unfamiliar with some of these, please consult the literature list attached to this paper.
To conduct the study, a questionnaire was designed to identify any connections between how the companies utilized the improvement tools and the results achieved in organizations. The questionnaire contained questions related to the following issues:
The improvement process, i.e., which tools were used, how, and in what situations. To make sure that the enterprises fully understood what they were responding to, a four-page appendix was attached to the questionnaire explaining the different tools.
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