Product development through continuous improvement
A Corus case study

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Page 2: Continuous improvement (Kaizen)

Since the 1950s many manufacturing techniques based on quality have been developed. 'Kaizen' is one of these and is Japanese for 'continuous improvement'. This focuses on making small continuous improvements across all functions, systems and processes within a business. For example, waste is a cost to Corus. Continuous improvement contributes towards lean production.

Lean production occurs where:

  • waste has been minimised
  • the flow of work is smooth
  • the business is focused on customer needs.

Lean production uses fewer resources more efficiently. This increases productivity and can improve profitability. Continuous improvement at Corus helps to eliminate waste in seven key areas. It uses the mnemonic 'TIM WOOD' to help employees remember the areas.

One aspect of lean production that helps to save costs of stock is the just-in-time (JIT) principle. Just-in-time means producing and supplying goods at the time they are needed. The business holds the minimum amount of raw materials and just enough finished product to meet demand. It requires well-organised systems to ensure supplies arrive and goods reach customers on time. This reduces costs and so helps to improve the return on investment for shareholders.  JIT also carries risks if the business has no stock it could be less able to cope if suppliers fail to deliver. Corus needs to balance these risks against the proven benefits.

Continuous improvement influences the whole of the business. To be effective, all employees need to own and adopt CI principles, starting with senior management commitment. Under their leadership, CI works through the whole organisation. Strong communication is important in building this commitment. Corus carries out regular presentations to staff on how CI is improving the business. It also uses written forms of communication with articles in team briefings and newsletters.

Everyone has a part to play in continuous improvement. Through various CI groups, all Corus employees can contribute ideas for improving their working practices. The person doing a job often knows best how to make improvements. This empowerment of employees and managers helps them to feel valued and gives them job satisfaction.

Corus benefits from becoming a more profitable business by reducing costs, securing high value orders and maximising the time its rolling mill operations are in use. Corus Research & Development benefits from the business” commitment to improvement by developing expertise and knowledge. This will support future business. Continuous improvement not only makes Corus more efficient but also provides many benefits to its external stakeholders. 


Corus | Product development through continuous improvement