Continuous improvement as a business strategy
A Corus case study

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Page 3: Implementing a continuous improvement culture

A CI culture means that everyone can put forward ideas and have a say in how processes can change for the better. This is known as engagement.

CI needs team work. In Scunthorpe, a CI manager coordinates the process. 40 CI Coaches chosen from the workforce received training to facilitate improvements. CCI has put together a 'toolbox' of techniques which the coaches use with managers, employees and operators. These help everyone understand where and how they can improve their work.

An organisation needs to know where it is going in order to be able to put in place the resources it needs to achieve its plans. This is set out in a vision.

Scunthorpe plate mill has set out a 5-year vision improvement plan which will help in the process of developing a CI culture for the business. Everyone in the organisation has to understand and actively support the plan. Workshops for all employees have taken place to explain the vision and why the change is necessary if CCI is to remain competitive.

Process mapping

Helped by the CI Coaches, workers have drawn maps of their processes. These show the links between the stages of manufacturing as well what information flow is needed. The maps show:

  • details of tonnages
  • number of products
  • rework cycles
  • inspection points
  • stocks
  • delays
  • costs

The first part of this process is a 'current state value stream map'. This shows what the systems and processes are like now.

The next stage considers what the 'future state map' would look like. This highlights what CCI needs to do to achieve this state, for example, investing in new processes, equipment or additional staffing.

Scunthorpe plate mill has 16 system maps. These link to each other to give an overview of the whole process. For each of the 16 systems, a number of rules about stock levels and stock rotation have been set up:

  • Stock rotation ensures that the plates for one customer do not become buried beneath others and therefore delayed.
  • The required amount of slab steel ('feedstock') must be in front of the mill by the Tuesday of the week in which the material is to be rolled.
  • By rolling plates in the planned week, the mill is properly paced and all 'downstream' processes (such as cutting, levelling and inspection) can be scheduled accordingly.

Using the value stream maps has helped CCI to improve process flows and the working environment. It has also reduced unnecessary motion, transport and processing.

By taking these small steps and involving everyone in the vision, the delivery of product has increased from 70% of plates on time to 92% on time.

Corus | Continuous improvement as a business strategy