The PDCA cycle is a key part of Continuous Improvement within the Lean methodology
framework. It’s had such a significant influence on manufacturers, and there are plenty of
education programmes and Lean courses dedicated to the principles and practical
applications of the PDCA cycle. Now, more organisations are embracing its simplicity to
nurture a culture of Continuous Improvement that leads to optimal performance.
So, what exactly is the PDCA cycle? This article will explore how it works and how to
execute it within your own manufacturing business.
Exploring the PDCA cycle
The PDCA cycle acts as a four-step approach to drive continuous process enhancement.
Through precise iterations, it promotes a culture of refinement, edging closer to
Organisational Excellence with each cycle.
PDCA stands for ‘Plan-Do-Check-Act’, a systematic series of steps:
1. Plan: You must first identify a problem or area to improve, set objectives, and
develop a hypothesis about effective changes.
2. Do: Validate your theoretical solutions against actual operational dynamics.
3. Check: Assess the data and outcomes of your actions to see whether they resulted in
the expected benefits.
4. Act: Refine and standardise the successful solutions and learn from those that were
futile to form the foundation for the next cycle of planning.
The PDCA cycle in action
Comprehensive planning sets the stage for successful implementation. For example, a
manufacturing company uses the PDCA cycle in their operational framework to enhance
efficiency and effectiveness. They were struggling with escalating operational costs, but the
PDCA cycle enabled them to reduce waste and downtime and streamline their processes to
meet delivery schedules, increase profit margins, and improve customer satisfaction.
Identifying the problem
Following a thorough review of the production processes and performance metrics,
management pinpoints a bottleneck at the assembly stage, which is slowing down
Setting the primary objective
They aim to reduce the assembly stage time by 25% over the next two months to help meet
delivery schedules and improve customer satisfaction.
Management came up with the following hypotheses:
● Simplifying the assembly process might reduce the time it takes.
● Implementing automation for specific repetitive tasks could make processes faster.
● Training may improve the efficiency and speed of staff.
● More modern and efficient equipment could lessen assembly time.
They develop a meticulous plan:
● Process engineers will review and outline the current process to establish areas to
● Any recommended changes will be actioned in a controlled, measurable manner.
● A feasibility study will be performed to identify which tasks could be automated and
at what cost.
● If viable, a detailed plan will be created for executing automation, including
procurement, installation, and testing.
Each step is documented with assigned responsibilities, timelines, and performance
metrics to measure progress towards enhanced production efficiency and customer
Implementing the PDCA cycle in your processes
● Identify gaps or areas for improvement in current processes.
● Use collaborative teams to ensure a variety of perspectives for developing
solutions and a comprehensive approach.
● Continuously monitor and evaluate to establish the impact and foster an
environment of accountability.
● Build a robust feedback loop to document and leverage insights for future PDCA
cycles, making the process smarter with each iteration.
Learn more about the PDCA cycle with Manufacturers Network
The PDCA cycle is more than a managerial tool – it creates a culture of Continuous
Improvement and Lean methodology. By embracing PDCA cycles, manufacturing
organisations can foster a space of ongoing learning and enhancement, ensuring they
remain competitive and achieve Organisational Excellence.
To learn more about the PDCA cycle or sign up for one of our courses, please contact us:
● Phone: 0161 533 1617
● Email: email@example.com
● Get in touch online