Today’s organizations and employees have the benefit of being able to use many different kinds of theories and models for the successful management and completion of business processes.One of the most commonly-employed models in this area is the Shewhart Cycle, also known as the Plan Do Check Act (PDCA) method. The Shewhart Cycle was named after Walter Andrew Shewhart, a statistician who worked to improve industrial quality for major companies in the early 20th century including Western Electric and the Bell Telephone Laboratories.
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The Format Of The Shewhart Cycle
From a visual perspective, the PDCA Cycle is set up in a circle or wheel that is divided into four quadrants. Each section of the circle represents a different part of the cycle:
- Plan: the planning stage is the part of the Shewhart Cycle where companies identify what needs to take place to achieve goals or targets. Establishing these targets is a critical element of determining success in the later part of the cycle
- Do: in this phase of the cycle, action is taken towards the desired result. In the case of a manufacturing company, the “do” phase would involve the production of the company’s product or part
- Check: this is a critical part of the Shewhart Cycle because this step is when companies go back and review the results of the steps that they took in the do phase. In the “check” phase, companies determine how beneficial their actions were to the goals that they established in the “planning” stage of the cycle
- Act: based on information gleaned from the “check” part of the phase, companies must take action to correct missteps and improve the efficiency of the actions taken during the “do” phase
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An important element of the cycle is its operation as a continuous loop. Each time an organization cycles through the four steps in the process, they gain new insight about how they can improve the efficiency of their operation and how they may be able to better meet their goals.
How Is The Shewhart Cycle Used?
One of the most common areas where the PDCA cycle is of particular assistance to manufacturing companies is in attaining ISO certification. Mark Hammar at the 9001 Academy wrote a blog post recently that identified some of the ways that ISO 9001 certification is linked to the ISO 9001 standard requirements. Hammar goes over the four steps of the cycle and connects each step to important concepts that are found within the type of Quality Management System that would be compliant with ISO 9001 certification.
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Even companies that are not looking for ISO certification will benefit from using the Shewhart Cycle because it offers a streamlined approach to process improvement. This cycle is excellent because it is easy to understand, yet broad enough to apply to a variety of different manufacturing processes. It is also scalable, which means that it can be used at a level that works for all types of different organizations that need help improving their processes and making sure they are producing as efficiently as possible.