Continuous improvement is about making minor enhancements every day

Continuous improvement is a term most of us have probably heard at some point in our careers and lives, but, based on my experience, not many of us have taken a moment to consider the meaning behind the expression. Continuous improvement, or CI as it is often abbreviated, is at its simplest a way of acting in which things are done a little better the next time.

Most often, the secret of quality lies not in major activities but in minor changes made in daily operations. For example, I suggest everybody takes a moment every day to evaluate if something can be done more efficiently. By identifying areas with improvement potential and conducting the required changes, we may find ourselves on the way to improved quality – and thus to success. Aspects such as agreed common ways of operating or the reorganization of tasks to minimize the amount of excess work are small steps that can have a great effect on overall efficiency and quality.

Valmet has its sights set on continuing to improve its operations, products and services daily. We are pursuing this target by learning from our mistakes and listening carefully to customer feedback. I have quite recently switched position within Valmet and taken the leap from the world of group-level quality to that of fiber technology research and development. It has been great to see that quality thinking is an integrated part of daily operations. At my workplace, considerable attention has been paid to the seamless cooperation and communication between process and laboratory personnel, because successful customer trials are impossible without everyone’s contribution.

The daily improvements, no matter how small and insignificant they may seem at the time, are a vital part of being competitive in a tough operating environment. The ability to harness the improvement opportunities in our operations and behavioral patterns enables us to move our performance forward, benefiting both us and our customers.