Recently I came across this article in Plastic News that struck me as odd, but offered an opportunity to communicate the importance of a solid idea management system in order to maximize the benefits of your continuous improvement process.

But first, I must add that I was a bit baffled by the inclusion of Six-Sigma in the whole ‘ROI’ question since true Six-Sigma projects always look to answer “How much will this save?”, or “How much will this reduce our scrap costs by?” … clearly ROI centric questions.

Lean, on the other hand, is a different story. A good lean program will yield thousands of small ideas. In fact, one of the main reasons ideas are seldom documented beyond the Kaizen Card, is that a program administrator would be immediately overwhelmed by having to input each idea into a database or spreadsheet. A further reason is that fact that these databases are accessible by few (usually management), and thus the true benefit of documenting the data beyond having a catalog of ideas for reporting purposes at times does not justify the effort.

Enter idea management software: Web based idea management software solves this problem. Instead of one person documenting the ideas, every member of the organization is responsible for recording their ideas. The system catalogs and helps administrators to manage the workflow and even assign ‘rewards’. But the greatest benefit is the fact that these ideas are searchable by everyone. Users can look to see if solutions have been found for similar problems, and that in itself helps propagate solutions across the organization (Yokoten).

Once ideas reside in the database, it is easy to calculate the ROI from actual cost figures or even reductions in processing time (Yes, although process time savings are not immediately visible, they become tangible once lines are re-balanced.)