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Continuous Improvement Managers


The use of continuous improvement processes in modern times can be traced back to Japan right after the end of World War II. The U.S. government was interested in helping the country—which had lost the war and suffered significant damage as a result of Allied bombing—to rebuild. In 1946, the Economic and Scientific Section of the War Department sent Dr. W. Edwards Deming, a respected engineer, statistician, and management consultant, to Japan to study agricultural production and related issues. During the next decade, Deming returned to Japan frequently to help statisticians assess the problems of nutrition and housing and to prepare for a census. While doing so, he taught the theories of continuous improvement to academics, scientists, engineers, and leaders of industry. By the 1970s, many Japanese companies (especially those specializing in telecommunications, consumer electronics, and automobile manufacturing) had embraced Deming’s theories and enjoyed great success and profits internationally. The Japanese name for continuous improvement is Kaizen, which translates to “change for the better.”

During the 1980s, U.S. companies faced increased global competition, especially from Japanese manufacturers, and many corporations—such as Motorola, General Electric, Ford Motor Company, and 3M—sought to improve quality and productivity by embracing the concept of Kaizen. The position of continuous improvement manager (CIM) emerged to help companies reach these quality and productivity goals. As competition between businesses continues to grow, demand for skilled CIMs has also increased.  

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