Careers
Companies
Topics
Get Started
Interview Coach 1:1
Gain the confidence you need by asking our professionals any interview scenario, question, or answer you are unsure about.
Let Us Review Your Answers
Our interviewing professionals will gladly review and revise any answer you send us. Allowing you to craft perfect responses for your next job interview.
Interview Questions by Topic
Interview Questions by Career
Interview Questions by Company

Continuous Improvement Engineer Interview
Questions

30 Questions and Answers by Ryan Brown

Question 1 of 30

How does the concept of Heijunka apply to day to day operations in a manufacturing setting?

1000s of Interview Questions

Win your next job by practicing from our question bank. We have thousands of questions and answers created by interview experts.

Continuous Improvement Engineer Interview Questions

  1. 1.

    How does the concept of Heijunka apply to day to day operations in a manufacturing setting?

      Heijunka is the concept of level-loading a process or operation. This concept is related to the aspirational goal of single piece flow in all processes. This question is meant to evaluate the candidates practical understanding of these concepts. A good answer will express the candidates understanding of these ideas as an ideal-state vision, while demonstrating their ability to work within the constraints of a real-world system to develop a practical solution.

      Ryan's Answer

      "The importance of level-loading a production area cannot be overstated. There are many benefits to reducing batch sizes and creating a routine cadence in a production schedule. As batch sizes go down and change-over frequency goes up, the inefficiencies involved with change-overs come to light. This drives a reduction in changeover time, which can subsequently lead to further decrease batch sizes. Level-loading across shifts also has the ancillary benefit of ensuring proper training for all shifts on all products. Heijunka should be pursued with the ideal vision of single-piece-flow in all processes, even though this visoon can often not be fully realized due to practical constraints."

  2. 2.

    After you have implemented a change to a job, you have a particular team-member who refuses to adhere to the change. How do you handle this?

      Changing a person's habits can be very difficult, especially if it is something they have grown accustomed to over a long period of time. With that being said, once a change is implemented in an organization, it is an expectation that it will be adhered to by the entire team. CI engineers are often responsible for implementing changes but do not have direct supervisory responsibility for the team that must adhere to the change. This can put the engineer in a tricky spot, as their main means of changing behavior is through influence rather than direction.

      The answer to this question should show that the candidate will be assertive and try to influence the team-member to correct behavior before escalating to the person's direct manager.

      Ryan's Answer

      "If I see a team-member not adhering to a change, then I will speak to them and remind them of the change to make sure that they haven't simply forgotten what they are supposed to do. If they don't comply after I have gently reminded them, I will explain why the change is made and understand why they are not complying. If there is something simple I can do to make the job easier for them or satisfy their complaints; I will do it.
      Usually, after these steps, the team-member will come around and do what they are expected to. If they don't, then I will escalate this to their direct manager so corrective action can be issued."

  3. 3.

    How do you handle feedback?

      This is a simple question that many candidates struggle with. Lots of candidates will respond that they take constructive feedback well. Of course, it is a hard expectation that employees will take constructive feedback well. This question is really asking: how does the candidate handle all feedback, and are they going to be dismissive of peers' and team members' feedback at lower organization levels. If negative or unconstructive feedback is offered, the interviewer will gauge how well they will handle this by seeing if they have the emotional intelligence to cipher through all feedback offered and extract the useful parts without damaging relationships.

      This is an opportunity for the candidate to differentiate themselves by demonstrating their emotional intelligence and ability to communicate with all organization levels regardless of how others communicate with them.

      Ryan's Answer

      "Of course I welcome and thrive on constructive feedback, but many times even un-constructive feedback contains important information. No matter how information is presented to me, I always try to reflect and understand how a person feels and what information they are actually conveying. If a person offers negative feedback, it is because they are frustrated or having some problem. In that case, I try to look past their tone or negativity and understand the problem that is frustrating them so I can work to offer a solution."

  4. 4.

    What does kaizen mean to you?

      Literally, kaizen roughly means good change. The concept of kaizen is that continuous small improvements are in aggregate more effective than just a few large changes. True kaizen activities should focus on low-cost, short lead-time improvements that make an immediate impact. More generally, kaizen thinking really means that someone is always looking to make improvements. This is a good opportunity for the candidate to demonstrate their understanding of kaizen thinking.

      Ryan's Answer

      "To me, kaizen is not just implementing changes here and there or conducting structured events every so often. Kaizen is a way of thinking where one is always questioning how things are done and looking for opportunities to make things better. I live and breathe kaizen at work and home. I am always looking for ways in which I can streamline and improve my day-to-day activities. I am constantly looking for small improvements in the workplace that will make work easier and more efficient for myself others."

  5. 5.

    Are you familiar with the 8 wastes? How do you go about reducing waste in the workplace?

      Identifying and eliminating waste is a key part of lean thinking and TPS. While the wastes can differ slightly by an organization, they are generally accepted as intellect, waiting, overproduction, rejects/defects, motion, processing, inventory, and transportation. While eliminating all waste is good, CI engineers need to eliminate waste that can create a direct cost reduction in the workplace. There are many ways to reduce waste, so there are many good ways to answer this question. This is a good time for the candidate to reiterate their ability to engage others, make improvements, and express their CI/kaizen mindset.

      Ryan's Answer

      "I am familiar with the 8 wastes; as an engineer, I am constantly looking for ways to identify and eliminate waste in all systems. While I have had success identifying and eliminating waste through studies and structured events, my best success has come from implementing employee suggestions and focusing on fixing problems brought to me by team members themselves. When eliminating wastes, I try to prioritize actions that will directly make someone's job easier or actions that will have a substantial cost impact."

  6. 6.

    How do you use Value Stream Mapping to drive improvement?

      Value Stream Maps are a useful and powerful tool that can be used to understand complex processes and organizations. However, many organizations fall short in their implementation of VSMs. Oftentimes the Value Stream Mapping activity is completed to satisfy a corporate requirement rather than drive meaningful change. This question is less about the candidate's ability to read or create a VSM and more about the candidate's ability to identify impactful improvements based on the information contained in the VSM. The candidate should focus on their practical experience and improve business results using Value Stream Mapping.

      Ryan's Answer

      "Once a current state VSM has been created, I will look for constraints and wastes that are evident in the map. Often problem areas can be identified around large inventory accumulations. Once a problem area is identified, I will work to understand what is causing the constraint and then work to implement projects to alleviate the constraint. Always I treat the VSM as a tool to drive cost reduction, rather than a paper exercise to satisfy a requirement."

  7. 7.

    What is your ideal career path, how does this position fit into your long-term career aspirations?

      CI engineers can be ideal for advancement into a variety of roles. Their skillset is desirable because they are trained in methodologies to solve problems and make improvements that could be applied in many fields. The exact aspiration of the candidate is less important than the fact that they are interested in advancing and that they are thinking of how they will continue to develop. This is an ideal time for the candidate to further express the mutual benefits of this position for the candidate and the company.

      Ryan's Answer

      "I am unsure of the exact career path I desire, but I am very interested in manufacturing and look forward to advancing in this field. I feel that the position of CI engineer gives me exposure to many facets of the manufacturing industry. This position will give me the opportunity to create an immediate benefit for the company while developing my skills to move into a leadership role down the road."

  8. 8.

    How do you handle conflict in the workplace?

      As a CI engineer, the candidate will be studying and eventually making changes to how others work. Most people are resistant to change, especially when it comes to the way they do their job. For this reason, CI engineers will inevitably experience some conflict in the workplace. To be effective, it is critical that the CI engineer can mitigate this conflict without damaging relationships or losing motivation. An effective answer should demonstrate emotional intelligence and show assertiveness without seeming overly standoffish.

      Ryan's Answer

      "Due to my position, making changes to other people's jobs, I expect that I will experience conflict in the workplace. Usually, these conflicts arise when implementing changes to the way that others are expected to do things. When someone is unhappy, I listen to their feedback and give them a chance to vent about what is bothering them. Oftentimes there is some valid feedback at the root of their complaints. After giving someone a chance to vent, I will explain my way of thinking and why we have made a change. I always make it clear that we are open to adjusting and value the feedback of each person. Usually, after working together, we can resolve the conflict and end up with a better solution. Occasionally if someone is unreasonably hostile, then I would escalate this behavior to their direct supervisor."

  9. 9.

    What is Takt Time is, and how it should be utilized to manage a process?

      Takt time is the cadence at which a process has to operate to meet it's demand. This concept can be applied to any process that has a defined amount of deliverables over a given time. It is important that the candidate shows that they understand that the takt time of a process is driven by customer demand rather than the cycle time of the process. There are many ways to use takt time to manage a process, but at its core, the takt time should be used to dictate the staffing and hours of operation required for a given process.

      Ryan's Answer

      "Takt time is the cadence at which a process must produce to meet it's demand. To calculate takt time you divide the production time available in a day or week by the demand over the same period. Takt time is a very important piece of information required to manage any process. Once the takt time is understood, the process should be studied to identify it's cycle time based on it's current operation condition. The relationship of takt time and cycle time is used to evaluate if staffing needs to be added or removed, or if hours of operation need to change."

  10. 10.

    Please give an example of a large project which you have sucessfully managed.

      A large part of a CI engineer's job will likely be managing projects. Often, the engineer will not be directly responsible for completing all the work themselves but rather managing schedules and timelines to make sure that other members and/or outside contractors complete the necessary tasks. The answer to this question should highlight the candidate's ability to make and execute a plan. If there were difficult constraints in project implementation, the candidate should bring this up, so the interviewer understands that the candidate can work under pressure and within a specific timeline.

      Ryan's Answer

      "At my last job, I was responsible for a layout change in a large assembly area. The purpose of the change was to create space for a new project. To create the needed space, eight different assembly cells had to be moved. These cells were in the production of Tier 1 automotive components, so the timeframe was very tight, and failure to execute carried substantial consequences. With the support team's help, I created a plan to execute the move over six weeks in four different phases. During the most critical parts of the moves, I had the schedule defined with targets every 2-3 hours. By managing the project to this schedule, we were able to complete all scheduled moves with no disruptions to our customer."

  11. 11.

    Once you identify a potential project, how do you evaluate if it is a worthwhile use of resources?

      Typically any project should be justified with a financial cost to benefit analysis, however, sometimes the effect of an improvement can be difficult to measure. It is OK for some projects to be justified based improved morale or general workplace beautification. Each company will have their own requirement for an acceptable pay-back period, with many companies targeting <18 months. Usually one should be conservative in this analysis. The answer to this question should demonstrate the candidates ability to be business minded and think analytically.

      Ryan's Answer

      "After I have identified a project based on my observations or feedback from the team, I will estimate the benefits based on historical data and an estimate of the effect of the project. Once a conservative estimate of the effects are established, I will create a project cost estimate. After the costs and benefits are understood, I will make a presentation detailing the project's benefits and proposed pay-back period to present to management for approval. Occasionally, there are projects where the fincancial benefit is difficult to measure, in this case I would detail the soft benefits and include in my presentation. "

  12. 12.

    Why did you decide to pursue a career in engineering? More specifically, what made you interested to study Continuous Improvement?

      There are many good answers to this question. The candidate should be honest but use this to discuss personal traits that could be desirable for the employer. This is a perfect opportunity for the candidate to sell themselves.

      Ryan's Answer

      "I chose to study engineering because I have always had an analytical mindset. As a kid, I enjoyed math and science, so engineering was a natural fit. Once I began to study engineering, I was attracted to continuous improvement because it allows me to work directly with other people and see the results of my work happen very quickly."

  13. 13.

    Why are you interested in the role of Continuous Improvement Engineer?

      This is a simple question that often leads off an interview. This is an opportunity for the candidate to sell themselves to the interviewer and give examples to differentiate themselves from other candidates. There are many ways to answer this question well, but the candidate should focus on answers that explain mutual benefit for the candidate and the company. The candidate should avoid answers which don't convey a strong interest in the position (i.e., I am just looking for a foot in the door, and I saw this position was available).

      Ryan's Answer

      "I am interested in this role because I see the opportunity to apply my training in CI methodologies to improve the bottom line for the company. I excited about the opportunity for me to hone my skills while helping the company meet and exceed it's KPIs."

  14. 14.

    Why are you interested in this industry?

      While CI engineers and similar functions are generally associated with the manufacturing industry, they now exist in most industries. The candidate should have researched the industry they are applying to work in and have some speaking points ready for that industry's interests. The candidate should avoid any response that implies that they are indifferent to the industry they are applying to work in.

      Ryan's Answer

      "When I first saw this posting, I didn't realize there was this type of opening in the healthcare industry. After doing some research, I learned that there is a big opportunity to apply lean thinking to improve lead times and the overall patient experience in hospitals. The idea of improving the effectiveness of health care offered to people is fascinating to me because it would allow me to help others and make a positive impact on society."

  15. 15.

    What is your biggest weakness? or, What do you think your biggest hurdle would be regarding this position?

      This is a common question. Even though candidates are told to expect this question, they often don't answer the question as best as possible. The candidate should be honest with their answer and make sure to present themselves in a desirable light. The candidate should avoid answers that would preclude them from the job or portray them negatively (i.e., I tend to procrastinate when I don't want to do something, I don't really like working with others). The candidate should also avoid an answer that seems disingenuous (i.e., I am just too much of a perfectionist, I hate being late too much). If the candidate is early in their career or coming to a new company or industry, it is acceptable to mention that they do not have a detailed knowledge of the business and processes they will be working around.

      Ryan's Answer

      "Since I am a recent graduate and this will be my first engineering job, I think my biggest weakness is my lack of experience. This is certainly something I look at overcoming in the coming months and years."

  16. 16.

    What is the difference in a lean activity and cost reduction activity?

      View All 30 Continuous Improvement Engineer Answers
      Sign up to access our library of 50,000+ Answers,
      plus coaches for one-on-one support, so you can interview more confidently.
  17. 17.

    Making changes is a core part of a CI engineer's job function. How do you make sure that the changes you implement don't cause adverse effects on quality or other KPIs?

      View All 30 Continuous Improvement Engineer Answers
      Sign up to access our library of 50,000+ Answers,
      plus coaches for one-on-one support, so you can interview more confidently.
  18. 18.

    What are your technical abilities outside of CI (CAD, PLCs, Maintenance, etc.)?

      View All 30 Continuous Improvement Engineer Answers
      Sign up to access our library of 50,000+ Answers,
      plus coaches for one-on-one support, so you can interview more confidently.
  19. 19.

    What is your level of understanding of financial statments as they apply to operations?

      View All 30 Continuous Improvement Engineer Answers
      Sign up to access our library of 50,000+ Answers,
      plus coaches for one-on-one support, so you can interview more confidently.
  20. 20.

    How do you go about building rapport with a team that you will be working with?

      View All 30 Continuous Improvement Engineer Answers
      Sign up to access our library of 50,000+ Answers,
      plus coaches for one-on-one support, so you can interview more confidently.
  21. 21.

    How do you go about completing a time study on a process you are unfamilair with?

      View All 30 Continuous Improvement Engineer Answers
      Sign up to access our library of 50,000+ Answers,
      plus coaches for one-on-one support, so you can interview more confidently.
  22. 22.

    Why is standardized work important?

      View All 30 Continuous Improvement Engineer Answers
      Sign up to access our library of 50,000+ Answers,
      plus coaches for one-on-one support, so you can interview more confidently.
  23. 23.

    Please explain the importance of a pull-system and how you may go about implementing a pull-system in a new work place.

      View All 30 Continuous Improvement Engineer Answers
      Sign up to access our library of 50,000+ Answers,
      plus coaches for one-on-one support, so you can interview more confidently.
  24. 24.

    Why is 5S important in the workplace?

      View All 30 Continuous Improvement Engineer Answers
      Sign up to access our library of 50,000+ Answers,
      plus coaches for one-on-one support, so you can interview more confidently.
  25. 25.

    If you identify an opportunity to reduce a position (or positions), how do you go about explaining this to the workforce?

      View All 30 Continuous Improvement Engineer Answers
      Sign up to access our library of 50,000+ Answers,
      plus coaches for one-on-one support, so you can interview more confidently.
  26. 26.

    What is your experience leading kaizen events?

      View All 30 Continuous Improvement Engineer Answers
      Sign up to access our library of 50,000+ Answers,
      plus coaches for one-on-one support, so you can interview more confidently.
  27. 27.

    Please explain your understanding of cause and countermeasure.

      View All 30 Continuous Improvement Engineer Answers
      Sign up to access our library of 50,000+ Answers,
      plus coaches for one-on-one support, so you can interview more confidently.
  28. 28.

    When going to a new area, you will be faced with many problems of different types and scopes. How would you decide what to work on first?

      View All 30 Continuous Improvement Engineer Answers
      Sign up to access our library of 50,000+ Answers,
      plus coaches for one-on-one support, so you can interview more confidently.
  29. 29.

    How do you use structured problem solving to make improvements?

      View All 30 Continuous Improvement Engineer Answers
      Sign up to access our library of 50,000+ Answers,
      plus coaches for one-on-one support, so you can interview more confidently.
  30. 30.

    Tell me about a time when you engaged other team-members and utilized their feedback to make an improvement.

      View All 30 Continuous Improvement Engineer Answers
      Sign up to access our library of 50,000+ Answers,
      plus coaches for one-on-one support, so you can interview more confidently.