What is the goal of the case study?

For each case that we will discuss, you are required to submit an executive summary briefing not exceeding 10 pages (1 ½ spaced, one inch margin on all sides) that contain your reflection, recommendations and the rationale for your reflection and recommendations. You must also reflect on the key tools and concepts used in the case and if you think these tools/concepts were appropriate and why you think so. You must also outline what you may have done differently if you were the project manager in charge of the project.

You may use an additional 3+ pages for an appendix that may contain tables and figures. These case write-ups are due on Moodle by the end of the module as per the schedule.

This should be handed in as an executive memo/executive briefing, addressed to your manager. The format should answer the following question:

· What is the problem that is being solved?

· What is the goal of the case study?

· Reflection and brief synopsis of key facts (Not a repeat of the case) 

· What tools and concepts were used in the case? Do you think these tools/concepts were appropriate and why you think so? 

o Brief reflection on the tool(s) and/or concept(s) used in the case. 

o Supporting arguments and analysis that lead to your rationale.

· What additional tools would you include in this project and why?

o Supporting arguments and analysis that lead to your rationale.

· Was the project goal achieved? Why/Why not?

· What you may have done differently if you were the project manager in charge of the project?

· What are your ideas for next steps? 

o Supporting arguments and analysis that lead to your rationale.

· Appendices: Any supporting backup material that would be needed to follow/support the recommendation.

Remember: Your opinion does NOT count; your recommendation and the support that your analysis provides does.

International Journal of Lean Six Sigma Application of continuous improvement techniques to improve organization performance: A case study Sharfuddin Ahmed Khan, Mohamad Amin Kaviani, Brian J. Galli, Palvisha Ishtiaq,

Article information: To cite this document: Sharfuddin Ahmed Khan, Mohamad Amin Kaviani, Brian J. Galli, Palvisha Ishtiaq, (2019) “Application of continuous improvement techniques to improve organization performance: A case study”, International Journal of Lean Six Sigma, https://doi.org/10.1108/IJLSS-05-2017-0048 Permanent link to this document: https://doi.org/10.1108/IJLSS-05-2017-0048

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Application of continuous improvement techniques to

improve organization performance A case study

Sharfuddin Ahmed Khan Department of Industrial Engineering and Engineering Management,

University of Sharjah, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

Mohamad Amin Kaviani Young Researchers and Elite Club, Shiraz Branch,

Islamic Azad University, Shiraz, Iran

Brian J. Galli School of Computer Science, Innovation and Management Engineering,

Long Island University, Brookville, New York, USA, and

Palvisha Ishtiaq ASPIN Pharma Private Limited, Karachi, Pakistan

Abstract Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to study, analyze and implement continuous improvement (CI) techniques in an interior design case company, which faces challenges in different departments that affect the case company performance. Design/methodology/approach – The proposed methodology implemented in three departments of an interior design company in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). First, the authors analyzed and identified problems using Pareto chart and cause and effect diagram. After that, they improved identified problems using Kaizen, 5S, developed project selection form and modified organization chart. The result has been shown savings regarding money and time. Findings – Successful implementation of the proposed methodology reduced project in pipeline time from 16 weeks to nine weeks, profit margin increased from 25 to 27 per cent, sales win ratio increase from 11 to 32 per cent, better project and financial forecasting and 92 per cent of tender submission deadline achievement. A habit of clean, tidy and organized workplace has been developed among workers. Originality/value – Proposed solutions contributed significantly to saving time and effort spent to accomplish different tasks in the case company. The company approved the proposed solutions and implemented them, which show that these proposed solutions are feasible and practical. In addition to that, in literature, most of the CI applications are in the manufacturing or production sectors. This was the first study, which implemented CI techniques in an interior design company.

Keywords Process improvement, Kaizen, Continuous improvement, 5S, Cause and effect diagram, Waste minimization

Paper type Case study

Authors would like to thank the studied case company management and their staff for a corporation with us in doing the current research. Authors are also thankful to Miss Lina and Miss Anoud for the initial collection of data and its analysis from the case company.

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Received 25May 2017 Revised 11 November 2017

25March 2018 Accepted 29April 2018

International Journal of Lean Six Sigma

© EmeraldPublishingLimited 2040-4166

DOI 10.1108/IJLSS-05-2017-0048

The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at: www.emeraldinsight.com/2040-4166.htm

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1. Introduction Because of ever-rising customers’ demands, their expectation, globalization and increasing competition are forcing organizations to continuously improve their way of doing business. There is always a potential for improvement in components of any systems, but it is also essential to identify the particular areas of the components that need improvement (Khan and Zaidi, 2012). This will help organizations to remain competitive in the market and fulfill customer demands effectively and efficiently. Previous studies on continuous improvement (CI) demonstrate that the applied tools in this area are the planned, organized and systematic approaches, which lead to improving the organizational performance (Aleu and Van Aken, 2016; Galli and Kaviani, 2018). It is also evident from the literature that CI techniques are useful in improving process performance and help organizations in minimizing wastes, organizing the process and information flow and increase facilities utilization. Moreover, it also helps in continuously improve the processes within the company as well as to enhance their work productivity and efficiency (Sidhu, Kumar and Bajaj, 2013; Indrawati and Ridwansyah, 2015; Randhawa and Ahuja, 2017). The popularity of CI tools in general and Kaizen in particular also has been caused by increasing the application of these effective tools (Glover et al., 2014).

Globalization and ever-rising customer demand forcing organizations and decision makers to come up with strategies to improve process and products continuously. To do that, they need a commitment from all stakeholders and the effective and efficient implementation of CI tools and techniques. However, organizations pay more attention to improving their technical skills rather than human behaviors that required implementing quality improvement programs (McLean andAntony, 2014; Assarlind and Gremyr, 2016).

Processes providing the products and services should be improved with the aim of preventing defects and increasing productivity by reducing process cycle times and eliminating waste. Process improvement occurs through value-added process mapping, problem isolation, cause analysis and problem resolution. Many processes develop over time, with little concern for whether they are the most effective manner in which to provide a product or a service. To remain competitive in the world marketplace, companies must identify wasteful processes and improve them. The key to refining processes is to concentrate on the process from the customer’s point of view and to identify and eliminate non-value-added activities (Summers, 2011).

In the present era, CI tools and strategies are growing as an essential element to survive among the fastest growing industries worldwide. To compete with rivals and to fulfill customer demand effectively, different organizations have used CI techniques, and still many of them are striving for more improvements for overall system’s enhancement. In the past 50-55 years, some researchers have been working on this including a comprehensive review of the past and current practices of CI methodologies and their implementation, survey-based studies and case studies. Indrawati and Ridwansyah (2015) used different lean tools in Iron Ore Industry (Indonesia) to improve manufacturing process capability. Waste analysis has been done using process mapping approach following by failure mode and effect analysis method. After gap/waste analysis, a CI program has been developed and implemented based on redesigning of equipment.

Notably, if an organization tends to be successful, its managers should develop and implement high-quality standards for their products, process and workers’ skills (Oropesa Vento et al., 2016). Implementing the CI technique in an enterprise need leadership attitude and support from top managers. It also requires supporting from middle managers to encourage workers and all members involved in the process to be committed to increase process performance. Quality improvement is a philosophy and needs to be implemented at

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all levels of an organization (Galli and Kaviani, 2018). For example, according to Topuz and Arasan (2013) study, effective and efficient implementation of Kaizen brings economic benefits not only to the process but also for human resources.

Professional service (PS) companies are unique as they straddle both the manufacturing and service contexts. Therefore, traditional CI tools used predominantly in manufacturing environments (SPC, Statistical Testing, etc.) are not directly relatable to the PS environments. As PS environments are more of a hybrid of manufacturing and service in that they have process traits of both environments, the traditional tools had to be tweaked by the company and team leaders. It is not to say that the traditional tools are not directly relatable to PS environments, but to use them, they have to be appropriately modified to fit the process traits of a PS context.

The contribution of this paper is divided into three parts, which are as follows: (1) We identified the problem area that has an impact on a case company efficiency

and productivity by using Pareto chart and cause and effect diagram. (2) We implemented CI techniques in a case company to improve their sales

department, shop floor and the project team department. (3) The proposed methodology has been successfully implemented and after two

months of implementation, case company experience savings regarding time and money.

The rest of the paper is organized as follows. Section 2 provides a research background in the area of application of CI tools and technique in different sectors. Section 3 provides the company overview and problem description, Section 4 proposes the methodology to solve the identified problems as described in Section 3. Section 5 draws the conclusion and identifies the limitations of the study and the recommend future research directions.

2. Research background The scope of CI methodologies has been enlarged due to substantial advancements in technologies, modern innovations and rapidly changing market demands. In this section, we will provide the background of widely used CI techniques and tools as well as the objective of this research.

The 5S method appears as an expeditious tool adopted by numerous organizations working at different small/large scales, globally. It would not be wrong to call 5S a base of Lean House. It has been exploited by all sectors of manufacturing and services. Organizations initiated using 5S as a CI methodology from the late 1970s, and currently, it is considered as the most dominant and fruitful tool of Lean tool case. A 5S methodology is a lean tool developed by Japanese manufacturing companies, comprising five stages: sort (seiri), set in order (seiton), shine (seiso), standardize (seikatsu) and sustain (shitsuke). These five terms are interrelated with each other and play an important role in the achievement of the Lean system, if implemented systematically. Hence, they serve as an essential foundation of lean systems (Krajewski et al., 2009).

On the other hand, 5S is a systematic technique, which often used by companies to organize, sorts and cleans the workplace to improve productivity and efficiency. It also helps organizations in continuously improving the performance of the organizations (Singh et al., 2014). It also helps in reducing downtime, lead time, wastes and defects. Pranckevicius et al. (2008) implemented the 5S technique in a plastic cap manufacturing company. In addition to that, they implemented the DMAIC cycle to improve the process. Randhawa and Ahuja (2017) presented a comprehensive literature review on 5S applications and identified

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research gaps based on their findings. This study is focused on 5S initiatives for the sustainable performance of the organization.

Sorooshian et al. (2012) studied the experience of implementing of 5S in an organization in the context of its influences on the work environment. Bayo-Moriones et al. (2010) tried to identify the relationship between 5S use, contextual factors and operating performance. This study was based on surveys of 203 Spanish companies and hypotheses were verified using analysis of variance and correlation analysis. Gapp et al. (2008) identified and presented key concepts of 5S from the perspective of Japanese management. They collected data from different Japanese companies who implemented 5S, and data were analyzed using computer- aided lexical analysis (Leximancer). Results indicate that 5S implementation has visible (technical) and intangible (philosophical) benefits. Gupta and Jain (2015) implemented the 5S technique in an instrument manufacturing company. Findings reveal that tool-searching time on the shop floor has been reduced from 30 to 5 min and improved in overall organization performance.

5S aims to create a productive environment by appropriate categorization and an orderly arrangement of all workplace stuff. 5S philosophy develops discipline andworking standard among employees (Hilton and Sohal, 2012). Organization of workplace not only achieves optimized production but also builds a safe, secure and under control atmosphere. Patel and Thakkar (2014) implemented 5S in Storage and Insulator departments of Ceramic manufacturing factory in India. In this regard, red tags, workstations organization, GEMBA board to highlight KPIs and in last 5S monitoring check sheets are used. After implementing successfully space utilization, worker’s safety, improved inventory systems, increased productivity, clean environment and many other benefits are observed. History of Lean shows that 5S adoption is not only done to increase productivity but also for improvement of safety systems within organizations.

On the other hand, Kaizen is a Japanese terminology means, “change for the better.” It is the process of CI in small increments that make the process more efficient, effective, under control and adaptable. Improvements are usually accomplished at little or no expense, without sophisticated techniques or expensive equipment (Cherrafi et al., 2016). It focuses on simplification by breaking down complex processes into their sub-processes and then improving them. The Kaizen improvement focuses on the use of value-added and non-value- added work activities; Muda, which refers to seven classes of waste-overproduction, delay, transportation, processing, inventory, wasted motion and defective parts; and the 5S’s for workplace organization (Singh and Singh, 2009).

Kaizen relies heavily on a culture that encourages every employee to improve the jobs/ process or provide suggestions about the enhancement of particular process efficiency, as it is believed that employees know better about their specific jobs. Suárez-Barraza et al. (2011) conducted a literature review to analyze the application of Kaizen in academic and practitioner literature. Findings demonstrate that the literature of Kaizen is displayed fewer than three umbrellas, which include a series of principles and techniques. Arya and Choudhary (2015) implemented Kaizen in a machine vice manufacturing company in India. Results show that Kaizen has the significant impact on production techniques and lead times. Paul Brunet and New (2003) implemented Kaizen in Nippon Steel Corporation in Japan to assess uniformity. Results indicate that Kaizen is an integral element to improve operations management systems operations. Arya and Jain (2014) implemented Kaizen in a small-scale Indian company. Results prove that processing time has been reduced by 44.4 per cent and the amount of Rs. 64,000 has been saved by better utilization of area and workflow. Farris et al. (2008) describe results related to Kaizen event effectiveness regarding primary event outcomes and its sustainability. Oropesa Vento et al. (2016) analyze the

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effects of managerial commitment and professional development of the workforce on benefit in obtaining Kaizen implementation specifically in the planning phase. A survey-based case study has been conducted and implemented in Mexican maquiladora companies. Based on the obtained results, the managerial commitment has a direct impact on economic benefits.

In addition, Pareto analysis and cause and effect diagram are also statistical process control tools mostly used where quality-related problems are the center of attention. Pareto Charts highlights the major problems (the reason behind most many defects) and supports management in decision-making, whereas the cause and effect diagram is a brainstorming technique used to identify the principal cause of the problems. If Pareto charts help us to prioritize our efforts and to focus on the most serious issues, then cause and effect diagram supports to isolate the cause of that identified problem (Ahmed and Ahmad, 2011). The core idea of lean manufacturing is to maximize customer value and to minimize waste by controlling the extra use of resources. A lean organization understands customer value and focuses its key processes to continuously increase it. The ultimate goal is to provide perfect value to the customer through a perfect value creation process that has zero waste. To accomplish this, lean thinking changes the focus of management from optimizing separate technologies, assets and vertical departments to optimizing the flow of products and services through entire value streams that flow horizontally across technologies, assets and departments to customers (Summers, 2011).

Anything that does not add value to the product or for which customer is not willing to pay can be defined as a Waste. To avoid/determine Waste, Lean defines five simple steps “Define Value, Identify value stream, Eliminate waste, Pull Production, Strive for perfection. The basic objectives of a lean system are as follows:

� eliminate waste within the organization; this refers to all types of waste including downtime;

� reduce costs within its operations, not only in production but also office and administrative expenses; and

� improve customer satisfaction; this should be the main driver of implementing lean, as differentiation through customer service can be a powerful competitive advantage; this can be achieved through the reduction in lead times, increase in product and service quality and price competitiveness.

Table I summarizes some of the recent related works on CI tools implementation in different industries.

Table I. Applications of CI

tools in various domains

Author(s) Application domain

Suarez Barraza et al. (2009) Service industry Suárez-Barraza and Ramis-Pujol (2010) Public sector organizations Sidhu et al. (2013) Agriculture industry Shang and Sui Pheng (2013) Construction industry Gupta and Jain (2014) Educational equipment of laboratory manufacturing industry Jiménez et al. (2015) Metalworking manufacturing industry Arya and Choudhary (2015) Machine vice manufacturing industry Dweiri et al. (2015) Software developing industry Kanamori et al. (2015) Health-care services Gonzalez and Martins (2016) Automobile industry Omogbai and Salonitis (2017) Manufacturing industry

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2.1 Research gap Focusing on the research background, presented in the previous section, CI tools and techniques have been successfully and vastly implemented in many improvement projects and various industries. The effectiveness of the CI tools such as Kaizen, 5S and Pareto methods is proven and well argued in the literature. Taking Table I into consideration, there is no study in the literature in which the role of CI in quasi-manufacturing or services industry has been investigated, the current study aims to fill this gap by implementing the CI tools in an interior design company and to analyze the obtained findings. Obviously, the application of various CI tools in different industries will give the managers of companies a deeper view of how they can implement these techniques in their companies.

2.2 Significance of the study This study is unique and has been implemented in a different business environment (Interior Design Company in service industries) as compared to the manufacturing/ production sectors in terms of the following aspects:

� In the manufacturing/production sector, knowledge gained by the managers and experts directly affects the performance of the improvement tools. On the other hand, in the studied company, the operations and processes vary and are somewhat customized. Therefore, this study is unique in the sense that we have gathered all the knowledge and experiences of the managers and the decision makers from the company to improve the performance of the CI tools and techniques.

� In a manufacturing or production sector, lessons learned are categorized by specialty group or working group. In contrast, in the studied case company the lessons learned are limited to the specialty group who is responsible for a certain project or product. Therefore, this study expands the horizon of lessons learned and increases the domain of the knowledge from specialty group to key personals that are usually involved in process or product.

� Employer involvement is essential for the successful implementation of the CI techniques, however, in any sector other than manufacturing or production operations where employee involvement is dominant. On the other hand, improvement suggestions at the operational level are limited to the interior design company. This study increases the participation of workers who are involved in operations in the case company, which shows the uniqueness of the application of the CI techniques.

3. Research methodology Following the objective of the study, we evaluated and analyzed an interior design company and tried to implement some CI tools like 5S, Kaizen, Pareto and cause and effect diagram approaches to improve the organizational performance of the studied company. In this regard, we applied a framework, which was based on five main steps as follows:

(1) Step 1. Case selection: In this step, we select the company for the doing the CI project.

(2) Step 2. Current situation analysis of the company: In this step, we assess the primary situations of the company for identifying the challenges and problems, which the company faces too. Moreover, collecting the required data by different process observations and investigating the documents would be done.

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(3) Step 3. CI tools implementation: In the current step, we implement the CI tools based on their principles and procedures.

(4) Step 4. Improvement results analysis: In this step, we compare the before situation which was evaluated in Step 2 to the results have been obtained after implementing the CI techniques.

(5) Step 5. Recommendations for the company: Finally, some recommendations would be provided to the managers of the company.

Figure 1 depicts the mentioned steps of the research framework.

4. Case study In this section, we explain in details the conducted steps of CI, noted in Section 3, in an interior design case company as below:

4.1 Step 1: Case selection In the first step, we choose XYZ Interior Design Company (the name is withheld due to confidentiality) which is based in one of the developing countries in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). It is evident from the literature that CI improvement techniques have been implemented successfully in many sectors especially in the manufacturing and production industries. The reason behind it that in the manufacturing sector, a set of steps is constant and process redesigning is not mandatory. However, focusing on the literature, very little applications of CI technique are available in organizations which are not basically manufacturing oriented. This is because of the reason that companies apart from the manufacturing sector, have to deal with a variety of products and customer expectations which are diverse from customer to customer. Therefore, we decided to select an organization in which the nature of the business is somewhat different than manufacturing- oriented companies. Moreover, ease of access to the case company is another main reason to select such a case company. Since 1991, XYZ Interior Design Company has to provide turnkey construction solutions in the field of Design, Contracting, Interior Fit-Out, Specialist Ceiling and Partition Systems, 3D Rendering and Custom-made Joinery with an emphasis on detail and quality. It is a private company, located in the industrial area of the city and has

Figure 1. The steps of the

research methodology

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180 staff members. So far they have successfully finished around 620 different projects for different customers such as 3M, CISCO, The address and DHL.

4.2 Step 2: current situation analysis After choosing the XYZ Company, we started noticing and identifying some problems within the XYZ Company such as unorganized painting section, inappropriate organizational structure and problems in project quotation phase were the most significant problems affecting the company efficiency. To identify the problems in each department, we used the quality tools to help us in identifying causes, understanding processes, collecting and analyzing data and finally proposing solutions. Some of the required data were collected manually from the drawings, check sheets and documents, while the rest were obtained from our contact person in a case company as well as the rest of the employees. Then we analyzed and studied the data collected to find the best solutions to the identified problems.

We started observing the process of each department in the company on a daily basis. However, we focused on the departments that redound in accomplishing the projects, which were sales and marketing department, project team department and the shop floor/factory. This helped us to understand the flow of the project execution process from receiving it until its submission. Thus, the current situation of the major departments of XYZ Company was analyzed to specify the challenges the company faces. The screened departments included the sales and marketing, shop floor and project team departments. First, we had a meeting with the operation manager, the sales manager and the project manager to discuss the current problems that the company is going through. They identified problems in the mentioned departments. After detailed discussions with the managers, we decided to spend some time to observe the process in each department to identify the real causes. After the observation procedure and consultation with the managers of each department, the list of problems we found in each department was listed as below:

4.2.1 Sales department challenges

� They waste a lot of time and effort while pricing a project spending two to three weeks; eventually, they will lose the opportunity to get the project due to the lack of the project selection process.

� The sales manager attends all the meetings and negotiations with customers to get the projects by him due to the lack of enough resources, i.e. no assistant.

� No documentation of data, as there is no specific person to enter the data, i.e. bill of quantity (BOQ), causing delays and defects in getting the exact estimation for the customers leading to problems even before starting the project.

4.2.2 The shop floor challenges

� An inappropriate designed cell; this results in excess motion which causes fatigue, lack of concentration, waste of effort and failing in achieving the exact design. Also, it led to the higher potential of having damaged products because of the excess transportation of materials and finished well between different cells on the shop floor.

� Lack of resources; the same worker performs different jobs leading to lack of focus. Also, no training and motivation programs provided to workers resulting in untrained workers and hence increasing the defects in the final products.

� The operator is under pressure because the workers refer to him directly when having a problem, which needs to be solved in addition to his job that he needs to finish on time.

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� Half of the machines on the shop floor are either not working or need an urgent maintenance.

� Downtime/breakdown. Due to the poor maintenance, interpreting the production line causing delays in addition to the time wasted in waiting for machines to get repaired.

� The staff in the painting section of the factory face problems due to the disorganized area, and complaining about the time wasted searching for tools and equipment as everything is misplaced.

4.2.3 Project team challenges

� When they start executing the project, NOCs must be obtained from various departments and government authorities. Therefore, this task will be borne by the Sales manager due to the lack of resources in the department.

� Miscommunication due to the absence of a built-in designer, communication between the draughtsman and the designer (outside the company) is vague. Therefore, there is no direct relationship between them. The project manager is the link between the two parties, and that causes some undesired deviations in design, as the draughtsman do not know what the designer exactly needs. This requires them to draw it more than one time (Scrap and rework).

� Some of the workers on the site are unused well as the management is not providing testing for the new workers. Testing the workers can help the project manager knowing each worker capabilities and putting them in the right position.

By assessing the whole three departments, we analyzed the procedure of each department in details in coordination with our contact person in the company to indicate the existing problems. Moreover, data were gathered regarding the main challenges. Then we used the lean concept as a tool to classify the problems into the seven types of waste. Table II lists the types of waste existed in the different departments of the case company. Notably, the percentages of occurrences and the related data were collected from our meetings with the departments’ managers based on their experiences and knowledge and the data available on the timesheet and check sheets. Data have been collected over a period of eight weeks. We have divided data collection time (eight weeks) equally in every department and at the end, all percentage occurrences and categorization of types of wastes were discussed with each department head for their approval.

4.3 Step 3: continuous improvement tools implementation By recognizing the challenges and problems, the best solutions were proposed to the management board of XYZ Company. We implemented CI techniques to solve the problems and effectively doing the improvement project. The tools, 5S, Kaizen, Pareto and Cause and effect diagram, selected for the execution of the improvement project were each selected due to their application purpose. Based on the objective defined for the problem and the project, we reviewed the list of the available tools, and as the project progressed through the project lifecycle, the tools were selected based on their application and how the problem or task that needed to be addressed for the project phase and lifecycle. As is common knowledge, Lean Six Sigma encompasses many tools, but using team leader experience and input from the company stakeholders, the tools that were used was selected due to their purpose and ability to solve the question/problem at hand.

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4.3.1 Using Pareto and cause and effect analysis approaches. In this part, Pareto analysis was used to identify the types of wastes affecting the company efficiency. Also, a cause and effect analysis was carried out to target the causes of the problems that the sales department struggles. The Ishikawa diagram acts as a first line for the solution of problems by exhaustively generating possible causes. This creates a visual or pictographic representation of a process and leads to the immediate identification of possible causes of issues.

We focused on the problems that represent at least 80 per cent of the occurrences. We used the data from the table to identify and target the most significant problems; we found that solving 20 per cent of the causes will solve 80 per cent of the problems. A Pareto diagram was constructed with the data from Table II and is shown in Figure 2. As shown in Figure 2, the significant few causes will produce a large majority of the problems.

Table II. Types of wastes exist in different departments

S. no. Types of wastes Description

Percentage of occurrence

Cumulative percentage of occurrence

1 Waiting Sales and marketing: lack of enough human resources, the workload will be borne by the sales manager, which causes delays to the other departments involved in the process Shop floor: Poor machines maintenance leads to a delay in the production process Project team: The project manager is overloaded with the tasks and responsibilities due to the lack of resources

35 35

2 Motion Shop floor: Due to the inappropriate layout design, which is causing excess motion and material, handling between the factory areas?

25 60

3 Defects Shop floor: Due to the inappropriate layout design resulting in workers making an extra effort in which it will negatively affect their efficiency and lead to a higher rate of defects in finished products Disorganized painting section: causing frustration to employees as well as time and effort wasted searching for tools Project team: Due to the absence of a built-in designer, some defects arise from the designs of the project

20 80

4 Over-processing Sales and marketing: No followed procedure for selecting the project, this process is done randomly. It is time wasting, and they might lose the opportunity to win the project

10 90

5 Underused People

Project team: Improper utilization of employee’s knowledge, skills and abilities

6 96

6 Transportation Shop floor: Excess movement of material handling, equipment, and finished goods between the factory areas due to the inappropriate layout design. This may cause damage to the materials and products

3 99

7 Inventory Excess inventory hides problems on the shop floor, consumes space, increases lead times and inhibits communication

1 100

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When we deal with a serious problem, it is important to explore all the potential reasons that could cause the problem, before we start thinking about a solution. By doing this, we would be able to solve the problem completely, first time around, rather than just addressing part of it and having the problem run on and on. Cause and effect analysis helps to identify a useful way of doing this. At the end of a successful brainstorming session, we had a long list of ideas, and we created a manageable list of feasible ideas that were worthy of further investigation. A cause and effect diagram was created for the existing types of waste. Figures 3, 4 and 5 illustrate the cause and effect diagram for the main three types of the wastes exist in the aforementioned departments.

It is noteworthy that the purpose of using the cause and effect diagram was to get the answer to three “Whys.” For example, Figure 3 is a cause and effect diagram for excessive motion. Three Whys here are “Why there is excessive motion?” The answer to this question is because of the inadequate training and poorly design layout. Another question is “Why there is inadequate training?” The answer is because of lack of resources, and the last question is “Why layout poorly designs?” and the answer to this is because they do not have a standard operating procedure. These three Why’s lead to excessive motion. Similarly, the other two figures (Figures 4 and 5) were constructed to get the answer to threeWhys.

4.3.2 Implementing kaizen. We implemented Kaizen in XYZ Company in the previously noted departments according to the following steps:

Figure 2. Pareto chart

0 20 40 60 80 100

0 5

10 15 20 25 30 35 40

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tin g

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oc es

si ng

U nd

er ut

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d Pe

op le

Tr an

sp or

ta tio

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In ve

nt or

y Pareto Diagram

Figure 3. Cause and effect diagram for the

excessive motion waste

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4.3.2.1 Analyze the process. We selected the sales department and the painting section on the shop floor because their employees were facing various problems in their sector. The managers also suggested implementing kaizen in these departments. First, we observed the current practices in the painting section with the supervisor. After that, we identified the wastes generated in the current procedures.

4.3.2.2 Identify the problem. After a thorough analysis of both departments in coordination with the manager and the supervisor, we identified the following problems:

� waste of time and effort; � low efficiency; and � poor safety.

4.3.2.3 Set the goals. After we identified the problems in the last step, we discussed with the manager to set the targets to minimize the waste and mitigate essential problems. After discussion, we set the following goals:

� reduce cost; � improve the processes; � increase sales; � reduce time and effort that spent in the process of selecting the right project; � improve customer satisfaction; and � improve employee morale.

Figure 4. Cause and effect diagram for waiting for waste

Failure

Downtime/ Breakdown

No documentation of data

Ineffective production planning

Lack of Enough Resources

Load and Pressure on Operation Manager

No Customer Service

Method Machine

Management Man

Waiting

Design Issue

Lack of Multiskilling / Flexib ility

Poor Maintenance

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4.3.2.4 Gather the required data. To increase the participation of the employees in both departments, we consulted several employees of the departments and collected data and information from them to analyze the problems in more details.

4.3.2.5 Make the change. After data collection, we moved on to the most important step, which is to make a change based on the data that we collected in the previous step. We focused on improving the process in the two areas (sales and marketing department and painting area on the shop floor). Our proposed solutions are listed below:

� development of new project selection form in the sales and marketing department; � development of new organizational structure for the company; and � implementation of 5S technique in the painting section of the shop floor.

4.3.3 Implementation of 5S technique. For this purpose, we scheduled a discussion session with the managers to select the area on the shop floor, which needs an urgent action to improve the process and to enhance the performance. The painting section on the shop floor was selected as a 5S model because the work environment was inappropriately organized, dirty and cluttered; moreover, the work efficiency and quality were very low in that part. The 5S system consists of five stages. According to the Folk group (2009), these stages are defined in Table III.

4.3.3.1 Stage 1: Sort. We started sorting the items by letting the staff going through each item and decide whether it is necessary to keep it. The needed items were returned and stored, whereas the unneeded items were re-evaluated by the staff to decide whether they can be recycled, reused or discarded.

Figure 5. Cause and effect

diagram for defect waste

No Inspection

Machine Inaccuracy

Poor Maintenance

Lack of Resources

Lack of Coordination

Method Machine

Management Man

Defects

Lack of Skill and Train ing

Lack of Build in Designer

Lack of Motivation Programs

Lack of Knowledge

Inaccurate Design and Engineering Issues

Improper Supervision

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4.3.3.2 Stage 2: Set in order. We located the items, which were more frequently used in the workplace close to the worker. On the other hand, the items that are used together were stored together.

4.3.3.3 Stage 3: Shine. We then removed the non-essential items and the remaining items were put in their proper places, then we cleaned and washed the twowork areas.

4.3.3.4 Stage 4: Standardize. We focused on developing standard daily practices in which each employee should maintain the work area tidy and cleans it during and at the end of each shift. To emphasize the idea, we created a standardize poster which helps to ensure the first three steps are maintained. Desks should be organized before going home for the day. Each employee had to do his/her part to ensure that the 5S standardization is being implemented.

4.3.3.5 Stage 5: Sustain. The supervisors were asked to check that each job has duties based on the 5S stages, and each employee knows his/her responsibilities to fill the standard 5S audit formweekly.

4.3.4 Solutions for the project team department. In this part, we shared our solutions with the concerned managers and supervisors in the company including the project selection form, improved organizational structure and 5S method in the painting section, where we took their feedback and notes and made adjustments to them according to their requirements. Once the case company approved our proposed solutions, we implemented our solutions as follows:

4.3.4.1 Project selection form. The company had no systematic way for the projects selection process; therefore, we developed a new project selection form. A Project Selection can be defined as a process to assess each project idea and select the project with the highest

Table III. 5S Stages definition (Folk group, 2009)

5S Stages Definition

Sort Sorting means distinguishing needed items (such as materials, tools, gauges) from unneeded items, and removing unnecessary items such as broken tools, scrap, unusable or not frequently used items

Set in order It can be described as organizing the layout so that the items are easier to find and accessible to everyone, putting items in a logical storage location according to their importance or how frequently they’re used and marked with signs and labels

Shine This stage concentrates on keeping the work area neat and clean on a regular basis. The benefits include an improved worker attitude, making it easier to identify abnormal conditions, reducing contamination, and improving safety. The key point here is that cleanliness is a regular part of the daily work effort, not an effort initiated when the workplace gets too messy

Standardize Standardizing the work practices means operating in a consistent and standardized fashion. Everyone knows their role and exactly what his or her responsibilities are. Actions are taken the same way – the right way – every time. Some of the tools used in standardizing the 5S procedures are visual cues (e.g., signs, placards, posters, and display scoreboards), job cycle charts and scheduling of “five-minute” 5S periods

Sustain Sustaining stage is the most difficult S to implement since people always tend to return to the way they did thigs in the past. Practicing and repeating until it becomes a way of life. The benefits include establishing a culture of competence and shortening training cycles. Tools for sustaining 5S include 5S training, checklists, department Tours, performance reviews, and management support. To prove that the company is serious about “5S”, an audit must be performed on a regular basis

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priority. The selection is often made based on some criteria, which have been set by the company.

According to the company requirements and after consultation with the sales manager, we created a project selection form in which each project was scored against the selection criteria, and the total project score was calculated. The distribution of grades in each section was determined according to the sales manager requirements. This method gives the sales manager the ability to take some possible projects and identify which project deserves attention and is viable. Our proposed project selection form consisted of seven sections, whichwere as below:

(1) client details; (2) project details; (3) estimation; (4) project information; (5) relationship; (6) score; (7) approval.

The first section covers the client details along with the score, where it is essential for the sales manager to receive detailed information about their potential client. Figure 6 demonstrates the client details section as follows:

It consists of few subsections, which are listed as below: (1) Project name and brief (2) Types of the project, which includes three types:

� Design-build: in which the sales manager receives the information about the available space, while the company will handle the design and the materials used.

� Build only: the client provides the sales manager with the design and the information about the available space, the sales manager decides what material will be used and manufactures it in the company.

� Joinery: OnlyWooden work is done for one section, for example, the reception desk.

Figure 6. Client details section

in the project selection form

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(3) Location of the project. According to senior managers’ opinions, Dubai and Abu Dhabi are the most desired target markets for their projects, as the company has two branches there.

(4) Sector. The scoring is done based on their experience; for example, they have more experience in manufacturing furniture for hotels. Therefore, it will be less risky for them to handle such a project.

(5) A grade for the project. The studied company prioritizes the project with the large budget and high-end furniture such as Executive offices.

Figure 7 illustrates the project details section as follow. The third section covers the estimation details, which discusses the financial matters of

the project. Figure 8 indicates the estimation section. Section four discusses the project information that the client should provide. Figure 9

shows the project information section. The description of the business relationship with their clients was discussed in section

five. Figure 10 depicts the relationship section. Finally, the last two sections, Score and Approval, were included the summation of the

scores of all sections that are used to decide the priority of the project. Also, it included the final decision, date and the signature of the sales manager. Figure 11 demonstrates the Score andApproval Sections.

4.3.5 Development of new organizational structure. After we observed and analyzed the case company, we found that the current organizational structure is not defined and they need more resources to use in achieving their goals. Therefore, the following issues were

Figure 7. Project details section in the project selection form

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added to improve the existing organizational structure based on our analysis and observation of the process:

� Design department (including senior interior designer, a team of three interior designers and a team of two 3D animators) were added to the organization why the

Figure 9. Project information section in the project

selection form

Figure 8. Estimation section in

the project selection form

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company faced the problem of miscommunication between the designer (outside the company) and the draughtsmen in the project team department. By adding this built-in department, the time spent on the designing phase will be decreased, and fewer errors on the drawings will occur.

� Production supervisor in the project department. As there was no link between the foremen and the operation manager and due to the pressure on the operation manager, the new production supervisor fills the gap and helps to reduce the pressure on the operation manager.

� Two sales executives to assist the sales manager. One will assist him in the negotiations with the clients, and the other will be specialized in recording the data and documenting them, which will reduce the delays and defects in any project.

� QHS (Quality Health and Safety) section which combines both the safety department and quality department. As XYZ Company does not have such a department, this will help them to take the right actions and caught the errors before they become defects. Also while taking care of the workers, they will feel safer and more confidants.

� Project Manager Assistant. Who will help the project manager in collecting and getting the required NOCs and documents, and that will save the project manager time and effort to focus on his job and responsibilities.

Figure 10. Relationship section in the project selection form

Figure 11. Score and approval sections in the project selection form

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The improved organizational structure is mentioned in Figure 12.

4.4 Step 4: Improvement results analysis Once we implemented all the above CI approaches, two months later, the sales manager provided us with the results. Table IV shows the comparison of results as follows: Table IV summarized the results and compared it with the initial analysis. After successful implementation of CI tools and techniques, we found that results are motivational and give management a confidence to implement similar CI tools and techniques in other departments

Figure 12. Improved

organizational structure of the case company

Operations Manager

Sr.Draught Mgr

Production Supervisor

QHS

Project Mgr. Assistant

(Team of 2)

Draughts Man (Team of 2)

Factory Manager

Assistant (Team of 2)

Warehouse Mgr.

Estimation

Sales Executive (Team of 2)

Project Coordinator

Project Mgr.

(Team of 2) Project

Assistant

Foreman Foreman

(T f 3)

CEO

General Manager

Sales Manager

Procurement Manager

Marketing Executive

Head of Estimation

Quantity Supervisor

Added 3D Animator (Team of 2)

Sr.Accountant

Accountants (Team of 2)

IT Officer Admin and HR Manager

Design Manager

Chief Accountant

PRO

Receiptionist

Sr.Interior Design

Interior Designer

(Team of 20

Estimation Team of 2

Foreman (Team of 2)

(Team of 3)

Table IV. Improvement results

Description Before After

Projects in pipeline 16 Weeks 9 Weeks Sales win ratio 11% 32% Increased profit margin 25% 27% Tender submission deadline achievement 92% increased

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as well. Projects in pipelines lead time reduced to nine weeks, and this improvement allows management of a considered case company to improve customer satisfaction and service level. This will also allow them to use resources effectively and efficiently. Successful implementation of CI tools and techniques also has a positive impact on sales volume, which increases from 11 to 32 per cent and leads to increase profit by 2 per cent, which is significant. Finally, by applying 5S and changes in organization charts smoothen the process and information flow and allow the case company to achieve tender submission deadline promptly.

4.5 Step 5: Recommendations for the company At last, we presented the following recommendations to the case company for future:

� As a recommendation for the developed project selection form, an update and adjustment for the content should be done every year as many changes may occur. This will make sure that the project selection form is going in the current direction of the case company.

� It is highly recommended for the 5S technique to be implemented not only in the painting section but also in the entire shop floor area. Also, the 5S Audit must be performed on a regular basis for the painting section, in which we implemented 5S, to ensure the five stages are being implemented and sustained.

� Concerning the organizational structure, we recommend the management to revisit it on a regular basis to modify the organizational structure that we proposed if any major changes occur in the company.

4.6 Challenges faced during the implementation of continuous improvement tools and techniques Aforementioned results were achieved by overcoming the following challenges:

� Selected case company did not have the continuous and pre-defined set of a process like in manufacturing or production industry. To overcome this challenge, we first created a culture in which we encouraged the management and workers to identify the “hidden” and “unidentified” reasons that lead to ineffective process and operations. Once they started experiencing the improvement, they adopted a proactive approach to improve process and operations using CI tools and techniques.

� Initially, management response to facilitate this project was not very much positive. To overcome this challenge, we met with the concerned managers and decision makers in the company and discussed the potential benefits of this project. In this regard, we arranged several meetings with the managers to convince them about the project.

� Cooperation with the shop floor workers and supervisors were the most annoying challenge that we faced during this project. We spent ample time with the workers and their supervisors and explained about the benefits of CI tools by relating it to their everyday tasks. Once they saw the initial benefits, most of the workers were motivated and participated in this project.

� Delivering a comprehensive project report in a short period was another challenge we faced. As agreed by the management, we had to deliver a comprehensive report within three months. Thus, we distributed tasks related to each department among

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the group members and conducted weekly meetings to discuss any difficulty and the progress of the project.

5. Concluding remarks The primary goal of this paper was to study, analyze and provide the solutions to the most significant problems in different departments that affecting the case company efficiency and productivity. In this regard, the three main problems were addressed in this paper are:

� problems in project quotation phase; � unorganized painting section; and � inappropriate organizational structure.

To solve the aforementioned problem, we proposed and implemented the following solutions. � For Project selection problem, we developed a project selection form. The main

objective is to guide the organization about the important details they need to consider before choosing a project. Also, it will assist the sales manager by providing a procedure for comparing the importance of the different projects then prioritize them. Finally, select the most suitable project to undertake.

� The importance of having an organized work area is to avoid the storage of unneeded items as well as to eliminate the time wasted searching for tools and equipment. The existing work area in the painting section is disorganized and cluttered, and it is affecting the employees’morale. Employee morale is directly related to company productivity, thus keeping their morals high will enhance productivity. Therefore, a 5S technique needed to be implemented there to save the employees some space, time, money and energy.

� The current organizational structure does not include enough human resources, and it is causing role confusion to the employees. The proposed organizational structure is clearer and well defined in a way that each knows his/her responsibility; also it includes enough human resources and departments within the company to enable them to accomplish the targeted goals.

5.1 Practical implications One of the practical implications of this case study is that it shows how basic LSS tools can be used to solve complex problems in a PS environment, which as discussed earlier, is a mix of both manufacturing and service environments. Second, the results of this project show that to effectively use LSS tools in PS environments, the team leaders need to modify the approach of how LSS tools and concepts are applied in PS environments. This project shows that if done properly, the applied LSS tools can be used to solve complex issues in PS environments. A third practical implication is in PS environments that are new to LSS projects; the team leaders demonstrated that using basic tools to start projects and gain momentum is an effective strategy toward ensuring sustainability of the project. A fourth implication is that despite the environment, for an LSS project to be effective, communication at all levels is vital (from champion down to the frontline staff).

From an academic point of view, a key implication is that the results of this case study help to build in the area of applying LSS tools and concepts to hybrid environments such as PS environments. This project is academics and researchers to help explore the use of LSS in different environments can use a great case study. It is a great exploratory study of applying

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LSS tools to a different type of environment. Finally, by performing this project in a different environment, this helps to introduce new avenues of research for academics, and it helps to build bodies of knowledge for CI and other fields.

5.2 Limitations During doing this study, we faced several limitations as follows:

� Employee training to work in CI environment required both time and money, in addition to the costs of training to perform the main job.

� Due to the lack of resources (workers and personals) that were assigned to this project from the company management, we implemented CI technique in areas and departments, which had the biggest impacts on the company performance.

� As compared to any firm in the services industry in which many opportunities for incremental improvements exist, the case company had lack of incremental improvement opportunities because of the lack of standardized processes and operations.

� As any other qualitative research, the results of this study cannot be generalized to the other industries and sectors.

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Corresponding author Mohamad Amin Kaviani can be contacted at: aminkaviani1366@yahoo.com

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  • Application of continuous improvement techniques to improve organization performance
    • 1. Introduction
    • 2. Research background
      • 2.1 Research gap
      • 2.2 Significance of the study
    • 3. Research methodology
    • 4. Case study
      • 4.1 Step 1: Case selection
      • 4.2 Step 2: current situation analysis
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        • Undefined namespace prefix xmlXPathCompOpEval: parameter error xmlXPathEval: evaluation failed
        • Undefined namespace prefix xmlXPathCompOpEval: parameter error xmlXPathEval: evaluation failed
      • 4.3 Step 3: continuous improvement tools implementation
        • Undefined namespace prefix xmlXPathCompOpEval: parameter error xmlXPathEval: evaluation failed
        • Undefined namespace prefix xmlXPathCompOpEval: parameter error xmlXPathEval: evaluation failed
        • 4.3.2.1 Analyze the process.
        • 4.3.2.2 Identify the problem.
        • 4.3.2.3 Set the goals.
        • 4.3.2.4 Gather the required data.
        • 4.3.2.5 Make the change.
        • Undefined namespace prefix xmlXPathCompOpEval: parameter error xmlXPathEval: evaluation failed
        • 4.3.3.1 Stage 1: Sort.
        • 4.3.3.2 Stage 2: Set in order.
        • 4.3.3.3 Stage 3: Shine.
        • 4.3.3.4 Stage 4: Standardize.
        • 4.3.3.5 Stage 5: Sustain.
        • Undefined namespace prefix xmlXPathCompOpEval: parameter error xmlXPathEval: evaluation failed
        • 4.3.4.1 Project selection form.
        • Undefined namespace prefix xmlXPathCompOpEval: parameter error xmlXPathEval: evaluation failed
      • 4.4 Step 4: Improvement results analysis
      • 4.5 Step 5: Recommendations for the company
      • 4.6 Challenges faced during the implementation of continuous improvement tools and techniques
    • 5. Concluding remarks
      • 5.1 Practical implications
      • 5.2 Limitations
    • References

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