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We often talk about receiving awards from outside groups but today we’d like to discuss some awards we’ve given ourselves.

If that sounds a bit odd then the achievements recognised by the awards will seem even stranger. The awards were for CI or, more precisely, this was the award ceremony for our first CPD Certificate Green Belt in Continuous Improvement. It took place at UCC on the 17th of February.

That may sound like a rather academic concern, but don’t be fooled by the title or the setting. CI matters to shoppers too. So what is CI – and why does something we do internally matter to our customers?

In fact it’s much simpler than it sounds. We ask ourselves questions. Questions like: are we making things too complicated? Can we do something in a simpler way? Can we avoid waste and unnecessary effort? Here are a few straightforward examples: reorganising warehouse space means less congestion; changing the day of a new promotion launch to later in the week can make things easier for staff and suppliers and save money; improving ordering processes can save thousands of hours of unnecessary extra work. CI is about that sort of thing – about asking ‘Do we need to do things this way even if we always have?’

So what does CI mean to customers? Well the award ceremony, held at UCC, handed out certificates to 23 participants. The projects they were involved in had saved Musgrave and its partners over €700,000. That’s €700,000 that can be invested in better outlets, jobs or cheaper goods – all of which help the customers.

Of course, when you think about it, continuous improvement applies to everyone. Once you may have made a trip to and from various offices for meetings. Then phones, mobile phones, smartphones, tablets and Skype allowed you to do things differently and perhaps more efficiently. Even reorganising the contents of a desk or clearing a path to and from a building site or finding a quicker route to work can be a fairly basic effort that nevertheless saves time and money. Apply that sort of constant search for better, less wasteful ways of doing things to a company like Musgrave and to its retail partners and you could be saving thousands of days and millions of euros.

This process doesn’t stop – which is why we use the word ‘continuous’. And yes, there is an academic side to it (check out the UCC site and you’ll see courses like supply chain management that include CI), but it can be summed up in non-academic terms too: do it better, avoid waste, save money.

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