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Understanding the PDCA Cycle

The PDCA cycle also known as deming cycle is a continuous improvement tool used in the food industry to promote excellence in every facet. How well do you know about this tool? How well can you apply it? In the next few days i will explain how this tool works, what it means and how you can use it to drive continuous improvement.

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The PDCA cycle is an acronym which mean PLAN DO CHECK ACT. It is a cycle and the reason been that one step answers the other. You can apply it in every facet of your life. Do you have problems with your quality management system? Do you have problems with Auditing your systems? Do you find it difficult to convince management on quality improvement initiative? Do you have a drive for top management to feel your impact and get appraised positively Do you have a drive for business growth? If your answer is YES then you need a knowledge.

I will start with the first one which is PLAN.

PLAN: simply described as what you intend to do, how you want to do. It is a road map and a foundation on which every task is built. A poorly planned task will be poorly delivered.

The plan gives an idea of how your result will look like. In quality, your PLAN refers to your procedures, work aid, SOP etc. This contains all necessary information on how, why, who, when, what is to be done regarding a TASK. Every continuous improvement initiatives starts with a PLAN. The project …manager starts with a Plan, a builder, Mechanical engineer start with a PLAN.

When the procedure, work instruction, building plan is faulty then the end result will be faulty. Deming cycle is a continuous one and drives improvement. Every savings starts with a plan, how to save, what to save, when to save, where to save. For you to drive continuous improvement you must apply the first pillar of the PDCA CYCLE which is PLAN.

As a maintenance engineer your overhaul program must be hinged towards a plan. Equipment Overhaul doesn’t happen overnight less it impacts on the business. Every maintenance activities has to be planned. for those familiar with the FMCG and interface with the Engineering team you will often hear of daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, half year and yearly plan. Plan is the first tool for you to get results. It saves cost, provides direction, manages a system etc. Don’t under estimate the power of Planning.


The DO aspect of the PDCA cycle is putting into the action everything stated in the plan. The DO aspect is the implementation of the PLAN. A beautiful PLAN without the DO aspect will remain a dream unfulfilled. The DO aspect includes all checks, test, inspections e.t.c you carry out as documented in the PLAN.

For example if in your plan you specify you will carry out GMP audit on the production line twice in a week then the DO aspect should show document as back up proof that GMP was actually done. There is a popular saying in the industry which says “Anything not documented is not done” You cannot carry out the CHECK, ACT in the first place without the DO aspect.

Let me paint a scenario you only review what has been done. How you DO, what you DO, when you DO, who to DO forms the basis for the CHECK and ACT aspect of the PDCA cycle. The DO aspect is the interpretation of the PLAN which forms the basis for most findings encountered during audits.

The auditors have a clear knowledge of the PLAN based on some reference standard be it International standards, company standard or statutory requirement. It is important as the user that you can interpret the clauses in the PLAN as a deviation or misinterpretation or refusal to carry out what is documented in the PLAN can earn the facility a non conformity during audits.


The CHECK aspect deals concisely with review of both the PLAN and the DO.It is expected that a review is done of all that has be actioned in the PLAN. During the review gaps are often identified which may mean reviewing the DO or PLAN part of the PDCA cycle possibly as a result of changes in ISO requirement, Legal or statutory requirements.

The gaps identified result to a SMART action plan which should be both corrective and preventive. This part is usually carried out by stakeholders in the company where people are selected cross functionally.

For example what is documented in the PLAN is to review CAPA at least bi-annually this must be done hence it becomes a finding and also a threat to effective management systems.


The “ACT” part is to follow up on level of closure of open actions in the CHECK aspect. Nothing is achieved if all actions from the CHECK part remains open. It is expected that all open actions are closed.

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Coming Soon

Quality Management Bootcamp

4 Saturdays to cover the following:

First Sat: June 15th

Quality Operations Management - Incoming inspection, Traceability, Pest Control, Customer complaints handling.

How to write a Standard Operating Procedure.

Second Sat: June 22

RCFA - Root Cause and Failure Analyses. How to carry out validation for a new line - Installation, Operational and Performance qualification.

How to write a process flow chart.

Third Sat: June 29

22000:2018 Food Safety Management Systems.

Fourth Sat: July 6

Internal Audit Training on ISO22000:2018