Plan do check act (PDCA) (also called “plan do check to adjust”) is a management method used in iterative, continuous improvement of business processes. The manufacturing industry is one of the strategies for implementing the continuous improvement process (CIP) method in the manufacturing process.
PDCA was made famous by Dr. Edwards Deming. It is related to the continuous improvement methodology, which is also associated with the ‘Kaizen’ philosophy popularised by Toyota, a Japanese car manufacturer. PDCA advocates consciously considering how companies want to optimise their processes and being present enough to learn from their efforts.
Each of the components of the method represents a different stage of implementing a process improvement. The importance of each of these four stages is explained below:
- Plan: The first phase is about learning about possible improvements and developing a strategy for their successful implementation. The idea is that thorough planning and visualisation helps the company to understand the amount of work involved and to consciously include it in the improvement. In this way, the improvement is more pleasant to implement and less disruptive for all involved. The planning phase also consists of communicating clearly with all stakeholders and possibly conducting training to ensure maximum user acceptance.
- Do: The second phase is about implementing the improvements identified and planned above. Although many companies move quickly to this phase, it is important to be careful. Even careful planning can be thwarted by inefficient or ineffective implementation methods. Careful thought should be given to the “who”, “how” and “when” of implementation. If it is necessary to secure expert help before proceeding, then specialist help should be secured first. Some improvements may be time-bound or best implemented in a staggered manner.
- Check: In this phase, companies can learn a lot from their previous efforts. The phase reminds us that it is not enough to implement improvements and then leave them to their own devices. The impact of implementation, problems encountered since then, user acceptance of the improvements and achievement of the original objectives should continue to be adequately monitored. It is also crucial to learn what might have gone wrong or been done wrong and what needs to be changed next time.
- Act: In the final phase, companies will either standardise or adapt the improvements they have implemented to achieve better impact. Often the initial improvement will have been implemented on a small or pilot scale. Consequently, in this phase, the company can choose to continue with the improvement or go back to the drawing board.