Keys to continuous improvement

Reaping the Rewards of Supplier Continuous Improvement


We all know the old adage, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” It’s simple. It’s straightforward. It’s memorable. But it’s flawed. Worse yet, it’s dangerous. Things can be moving right along for weeks, months, or years—until one day, it all comes crashing down.

When things are working, it’s easy to fall into complacency. When things are really working, it’s easy to fall into a different trap—being too busy to change. But in both scenarios, businesses aren’t thinking about what’s next.

That’s why it pays to focus on innovation and improvement, and expect the same out of your partners.

In this article, we’re going to explore the dangers of complacency, the principles of continuous improvement, and the importance of partnering with a company who never stops improving—because after all, innovation doesn’t happen in a bubble.

The Dangers of Complacency

According to Michigan Tech, the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality doesn’t simply lead to complacency—it leads to stagnation. Processes work, machinery operates, and profits flow. People are happy. But one day, it’s gone. From global pandemics to industry disruption, it’s easy to get blindsided and by that point, it’s usually too late to recover.

After all, change is hard. And if things are working, why risk upending things? Because things are going to change around you. It might be a change in the competitive landscape, it might be a change in the way your customers work, or it might be a significant global event that upends everything.

  • BlackBerry/RIM was vastly unprepared for the modern smartphone.
  • Hummers were popular before the gas crisis.
  • 2020… happened.

As discussed in the Michigan Tech article, processes don’t have to be broken to be flawed—they simply have to be less than ideal. Innovation and disruption can come from anywhere, and before you know it, boom—you’re obsolete.

“Sometimes it’s hard to see how a process can be changed for the better, especially if you believe the current process is also the best process.”

Discomfort is Inevitable: Growing Pains or the Cost of Coasting

Discomfort is inevitable, and whether it comes from constant improvement or comes from an external force, rest assured that it’s going to happen. The question you need to ask yourself is whether you want positive discomfort or negative discomfort.

Positive discomfort is the kind of discomfort you feel after going to the gym for the first time in a while. It’s a step toward improvement, but you’re not going to see immediate results—and you’re going to feel it.  Negative discomfort, on the other hand, is a slower burn. You may not feel it immediately, but one day, you’re going to find yourself winded after you climb a flight of stairs.

In an organizational sense, the same holds true. Actions by leaders either cause temporary, minor discomfort on the path to betterment, and inaction is often accepted right up until the layoffs come.

Call It Fate or Call It Kaizen

Organizational change doesn’t have to be big or fast. For every 24-month ERP implementation filled with pitfalls, project management challenges, and significant risk, there are hundreds of smaller, less disruptive improvements that can set a company up for a better future.

What is Kaizen? Continuous Improvement for the Better

The process of implementing small, positive changes at a company is called Kaizen. A Japanese term meaning “good change,” “change for the better,” or “improvement,” Kaizen promotes a mindset where small incremental changes create an impact over time.

By combining the efforts of leaders with the actions from the people who do the job each and every day, the Kaizen methodology turns small improvement into significant results. From production to purchasing, accounting to automation, safety to sustainability, every department and process can be improved using Kaizen principles.

In turn, the organizations who embrace this serve to benefit in a variety of ways both tangible and intangible. From cost savings to improved efficiency, the idea of getting a bit better every day can do a whole lot to drive growth.

Trust in the Process

When it comes to continuous improvement, the only thing harder than getting started is maintaining momentum. According to an article on Kaizen from Safety Culture,

“Implementing kaizen in the workplace can be near impossible because management usually expects immediate results. Companies often miss out on improved work procedures and optimized business processes which yield a corporate advantage due to focusing too much on results.”

It takes committed, self-disciplined, and visionary leadership to embrace the Kaizen concept. The leaders have to be willing to invest time and often money into something that might not pan out immediately. Like the gym reference above, leaders need to understand that plateaus happen and that incremental change is still change for the better.

“Long-term commitment to new learning and new philosophy is required of any management that seeks transformation. The timid and the fainthearted, and the people that expect quick results, are doomed to disappointment.” – W. Edwards Deming, Author of Out of the Crisis (1986)

Work with a Company Who’s Constantly Stepping Up: Get to Know Morgan Li

After nearly eight decades in the manufacturing space, we can confidently say that we’ve been there and done that. Though reborn as Morgan Li in 2009, the Rosenband family has been at the helm of our Chicago Heights, Illinois production space since 1943. We’ve survived world wars, recessions, buyouts, and spinoffs.

Equipment has changed, people have changed, and processes have changed—but one thing has not: Our commitment to excellence.

2021 gave us a new facility—a 230,000 square foot production and warehousing space. 2020 saw us enter the grand format printing market. Pair this with millions invested in equipment, people, and processes in the past five years, and we’ve made the move from simple fabricator to one-stop shop for custom fixtures, furniture, and graphics.

To some, we’re a company deeply rooted in history. To others, we’re the modern player with the right equipment needed to deliver on time and on budget. To our clients? We’re simply the right people for the job.

However you look at it, we’re More Than Made, combining craftsmanship, continuous improvement, and scale to tackle whatever challenge you want to throw at us. Let’s get in touch.


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Cash wrap and perimeter displays at Brooklinen flagship in New York City. Custom retail fixtures by Morgan Li