What is the PDCA cycle?
The name PDCA cycle is an acronym that stands for “Plan, Do, Check and Act”. It is also widely known as the continuous improvement cycle or Deming’s circle, and is a process focused on achieving continuous improvement in the management and operation of a business.
To this end, the four essential steps (Plan, Do, Check and Act/Adjust) are taken as a basis and are applied in a cyclical manner to achieve continuous improvement. That is to say, once the four steps are completed, the cycle is completed, but the cycle must be repeated again, in order to periodically incorporate new improvements in the operation of the company or business.
We are going to detail what each stage of the cycle entails and, finally, we will offer you an example so that you can see how to use the PDCA cycle.
In this stage, the objectives and goals are set, and the ones that can be improved are identified. The plan should be created based on the company’s mission, vision and values.
In the “Doing” stage, the pertinent changes are implemented to achieve the objectives set. It is highly recommended to apply the changes slowly, to determine if they are really beneficial before implementing them globally.
It consists of three basic steps: training of all employees involved in the project, implementation of the project itself and, finally, analysis of the results obtained.
After making the improvement, it is time to analyze the problems and benefits obtained. After a correct identification of it, if the improvement fulfills the generated expectations, it will be implemented to the process, and if not, it will be discarded or modifications will be made to adjust it to the desired objectives.
- There are two methods of verification and localization of disadvantages: parallel to the implementation or at the end of the implementation, the main difference is that when it is done in parallel it is checked if everything is developed according to the stipulated, while if it is verified when the improvement has been implemented, we will have at hand the totality of the results.
At this stage, once the established test period has passed, the results of the changes are analyzed and compared with the operation prior to the implementation of the changes. If the results are as desired, the improvement will be implemented definitively and on a large scale; if not, corrective measures must be taken to reach the desired objectives or the improvement will be discarded completely.
In any case, once the Act/Adjust action has been completed and the improvements have been implemented, the planning stage is resumed, thus initiating a new cycle.
1. Example of a PDCA Cycle
With this typical example of a PDCA cycle, you will understand on how it is implemented. It shows the development process of a new product to add to the current catalog of a company:
– Plan: the new product is developed and the production process involved is defined.
– Do: in this step a prototype is created, tested and the collected data is analyzed.
– Check: based on the test data, the feasibility of the product is analyzed in detail.
– Act/Adjust: with the newly developed design, it is time to decide whether the new product will be used, changed or discarded; after that, the cycle will start again.