Continuous Process Improvement: Why Your Business Needs It

Last updated: Jan 17, 2023

When you’re juggling a million daily tasks, it’s tempting to think continuous process improvement in business is a nice-to-have goal instead of essential work. Here’s why you need to put it on the front burner according to business titan Bill Gates: “A lousy process will consume ten times as many hours as the work itself requires.” Be like Bill. Explore how a commitment to process improvement can actually save time, reduce costs, improve quality, and more – even if you’re not gunning to be the next Microsoft.

What Is Continuous Process Improvement?

While it’s known by many other names, including business process management (BPM), business process improvement (BPI), and continual improvement process (CIP), the definition of continuous process improvement (CPI) is the same: an ongoing effort to improve products, services, or processes through incremental improvement over time or breakthrough improvement all at once.


Not all CPI efforts follow formal methodologies. However, some of the most successful companies in the U.S., such as Toyota, Ford, Siemens, Amazon, and Nike, utilize Lean Six Sigma, which focuses on removing processes that don’t add value to the final product. Specifically, it aims to remove waste and variation from the process. Other popular methodologies include Agile, Total Quality Management, and Kaizen.


Coworkers researching continuous process improvement and how to apply it to their business.

What Can CPI Really Do for Your Business?

While continuous process improvement is most common in manufacturing or distribution, it can be applied to any business environment. Whether it’s generating reports, onboarding employees, tracking orders, entering sales, or launching a new product, every business adheres to some set of processes. An example of continuous process improvement in business might be the elimination of steps in an order entry process where many of the steps slowed the process without adding true value.


Implementing a CPI program can also come with significant obstacles. It requires culture change, support, and buy-in from all levels, but there are significant rewards for those who put in the effort:


Increased Productivity

It’s simple: Increased productivity equals increased profit. Let’s use the example from above. By eliminating steps in an order entry process, you can take a larger number of orders in a shorter amount of time without adding additional staff. CPI also may allow you to automate tedious, repetitive, or menial tasks for increased efficiency.


Shorter Delivery Times

When you produce your product in less time, you can get it into your customers’ hands sooner. Similarly, if you can perform a service faster, you can schedule more appointments in a shorter period of time. The result is a shorter overall lead time for customers, which is a big plus in a market that’s become increasingly intolerant of delays.


Improved Quality 

When you refine how you do something, you naturally get better at it. As a result, you reduce the number of errors and deliver better quality products and services. This leads to fewer customer returns and complaints. Customers appreciate reliability, and as quality grows, your reputation will improve accordingly.


Increased Innovation

Improving processes can do more than just remove waste. Often, you’ll find a better way to do something. This can create a dramatic shift in how you do business.


Lowered Costs 

When you produce more product or provide a service in less time and with fewer errors, you can reduce your costs. The additional productivity combined with time savings reduces labor expenses.


If you manufacture something, you’ll also save on material costs by utilizing your raw materials more efficiently. You also reduce waste caused by production errors.


Better Customer Service

Continuous process improvement enables businesses to identify customer values, minimize waste in the value delivery process, and align their products and services with customer values. This allows businesses to anticipate the needs of customers and deliver products and services they want – often ahead of competitors.


Improved Employee Satisfaction and Reduced Turnover

According to a recent report by Gallup, 85 percent of employees worldwide are not engaged or are actively disengaged in their jobs. CPI can help by empowering employees to solve problems that irritate them and improve the efficiency of their work processes.

When an employee makes a suggestion for improvement, the idea can be tested, and if successful, implemented company wide. This allows employees to become active participants in the betterment of the company, leading to a sense of pride and accomplishment, a greater sense of belonging, and fewer reasons to leave the organization.


Getting Started With CPI

Not every business utilizes a formal process improvement methodology or program, and that’s okay. Setting up an official program isn’t required to reap the benefits of CPI. All that’s needed is an intensive effort to analyze your operations and apply some common sense. Sometimes it’s as simple as watching a process to identify where time and resources are wasted.


However, if you’re well versed in formal process improvement concepts, you can take your results to the next level. Acquire the tools needed to jump-start your efforts and reduce ramp-up time with USF’s Lean Six Sigma programs. We offer three online certifications for all skill levels that can help increase profits, decrease costs, and improve efficiency.