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Kaizen is a daily song, the purpose of which goes beyond simple productivity improvement. It is also a process that, when done correctly, humanizes the workplace, eliminates overly hard work and teaches people how to perform experiments on their work using the scientific method and how to learn to spot and eliminate waste in business processes. In all, the process suggests a humanized approach to workers and to increasing productivity: “The idea is to nurture the company’s human resources as much as it is to praise and encourage participation in kaizen activities.” Successful implementation requires “the participation of workers in the improvement.” The word “Kaizen” actually is from Chinese word “Gai” and “zhen ” rather then Japanese. People at all levels of an organization participate in kaizen, from the CEO down to janitorial staff, as well as external stakeholders when applicable. The format for kaizen can be individual, suggestion system, small group, or large group. At Toyota, it is usually a local improvement within a workstation or local area and involves a small group in improving their own work environment and productivity. This group is often guided through the kaizen process by a line supervisor; sometimes this is the line supervisor’s key role. Kaizen on a broad, cross-departmental scale in companies, generates total quality management, and frees human efforts through improving productivity using machines and computing power.
Kaizen methodology includes making changes and monitoring results, then adjusting. Large-scale pre-planning and extensive project scheduling are replaced by smaller experiments, which can be rapidly adapted as new improvements are suggested.
In modern usage, a focused kaizen that is designed to address a particular issue over the course of a week is referred to as a “kaizen blitz” or “kaizen event”. These are limited in scope, and issues that arise from them are typically used in later blitzes.
… a system of continuous improvement in quality, technology, processes, company culture, productivity, safety and leadership.
We’ll look at Kaizen by answering three questions: What is Kaizen? What are the benefits of Kaizen? What do you need to do to get started using Kaizen principles?
What is Kaizen?
Kaizen was created in Japan following World War II. The word Kaizen means “continuous improvement”. It comes from the Japanese words (“kai”) which means “change” or “to correct” and (“zen”) which means “good”.
Kaizen is a system that involves every employee – from upper management to the cleaning crew. Everyone is encouraged to come up with small improvement suggestions on a regular basis. This is not a once a month or once a year activity. It is continuous. Japanese companies, such as Toyota and Canon, a total of 60 to 70 suggestions per employee per year are written down, shared and implemented.
In most cases these are not ideas for major changes. Kaizen is based on making little changes on a regular basis: always improving productivity, safety and effectiveness while reducing waste.
Suggestions are not limited to a specific area such as production or marketing. Kaizen is based on making changes anywhere that improvements can be made. Western philosophy may be summarized as, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The Kaizen philosophy is to “do it better, make it better, and improve it even if it isn’t broken, because if we don’t, we can’t compete with those who do.”
Kaizen in Japan is a system of improvement that includes both home and business life. Kaizen even includes social activities. It is a concept that is applied in every aspect of a person’s life.
In business Kaizen encompasses many of the components of Japanese businesses that have been seen as a part of their success. Quality circles, automation, suggestion systems, just-in-time delivery, Kanban and 5S are all included within the Kaizen system of running a business.
Kaizen involves setting standards and then continually improving those standards. To support the higher standards Kaizen also involves providing the training, materials and supervision that is needed for employees to achieve the higher standards and maintain their ability to meet those standards on an on-going basis.
After World War II, to help restore Japan, American occupation forces brought in American experts to help with the rebuilding of Japanese industry. The Civil Communications Section (CCS) developed a Management Training Program that taught statistical control methods as part of the overall material. This course was developed and taught by Homer Sarasohn and Charles Protzman in 1949 and 1950. Sarasohn recommended William Deming for further training in Statistical Methods. The Economic and Scientific Section (ESS) group was also tasked with improving Japanese management skills and Edgar McVoy is instrumental in bringing Lowell Mellen to Japan to properly install the TWI programs in 1951. Prior to the arrival of Mellen in 1951, the ESS group had a training film done to introduce the three TWI “J” programs (Job Instruction, Job Methods and Job Relations)- the film was titled “Improvement in 4 Steps” (Kaizen eno Yon Dankai). This is the original introduction of “Kaizen” to Japan. For the pioneering, introducing, and implementing Kaizen in Japan, the Emperor of Japan awarded the Second Order Medal of the Sacred Treasure to Dr. Deming in 1960. Consequently, the Union of Japanese Science and Engineering (JUSE) instituted the annual Deming Prizes for achievements in quality and dependability of products in Japan. On October 18, 1989, JUSE awarded the Deming Prize to Florida Power & Light Company (FPL), based in the United States, for its exceptional accomplishments in its process and quality control management. FPL was “the first company outside of Japan to win the Deming Prize.”
The Toyota Production System is known for kaizen, where all line personnel are expected to stop their moving production line in case of any abnormality and, along with their supervisor, suggest an improvement to resolve the abnormality which may initiate a kaizen.
The PDCA cycles
The cycle of kaizen activity can be defined as:
Standardize an operation
Measure the standardized operation (find cycle time and amount of in-process inventory)
Gauge measurements against requirements
Innovate to meet requirements and increase productivity
Standardize the new, improved operations
Continue cycle ad infinitum
This is also known as the Shewhart cycle, Deming cycle, or PDCA.Masaaki Imai made the term famous in his book Kaizen: The Key to Japan’s Competitive Success.
Apart from business applications of the method, both Anthony Robbins and Robert Maurer have popularized the kaizen principles into personal development principles.
In their book The Toyota Way Fieldbook, Jeffrey Liker, and David Meier discuss the kaizen blitz and kaizen burst (or kaizen event) approaches to continuous improvement. A kaizen blitz, or rapid improvement, is a focused activity on a particular process or activity. The basic concept is to identify and quickly remove waste. Another approach is that of the kaizen burst, a specific kaizen activity on a particular process in the value stream. Key elements of kaizen are quality, effort, involvement of all employees, willingness to change, and communication.
The five main elements of kaizen
Suggestions for improvement
What is Kaizen?
Kaizen means “improvement”. Kaizen strategy calls for never-ending efforts for improvement involving everyone in the organization – managers and workers alike.
Kaizen and Management
Management has two major components:
The objective of the maintenance function is to maintain current technological, managerial, and operating standards. The improvement function is aimed at improving current standards. Under the maintenance function, the management must first establish policies, rules, directives and standard operating procedures (SOPs) and then work towards ensuring that everybody follows SOP. The latter is achieved through a combination of discipline and human resource development measures.
Under the improvement function, management works continuously towards revising the current standards, once they have been mastered, and establishing higher ones. Improvement can be broken down between innovation and Kaizen. Innovation involves a drastic improvement in the existing process and requires large investments. Kaizen signifies small improvements as a result of coordinated continuous efforts by all employees.
Implementation of Kaizen Strategy: 7 Conditions
One of the most difficult aspects of introducing and implementing Kaizen strategy is assuring its continuity.
When a company introduces something new, such as quality circles, or total quality management (TQM), it experiences some initial success, but soon such success disappear like fireworks on summer night and after a while nothing is left, and management keeps looking for a new flavor of the month.
This if because the company lacks the first three most important conditions for the successful introduction and implementation of Kaizen strategy… More
Process-Oriented Thinking vs. Result-Oriented Thinking
Kaizen concentrates at improving the process rather than at achieving certain results. Such managerial attitudes and process thinking make a major difference in how an organization masters change and achieves improvements.
Quick and Easy Kaizen
Quick and Easy Kaizen (or Mini-Kaizen) is aimed at increasing productivity, quality, and worker satisfaction, all from a very grassroots level. Every company employee is encouraged to come up with ideas – however small – that could improve his/her particular job activity, job environment or any company process for that matter. The employees are also encouraged to implement their ideas as small changes can be done by the worker him or herself with very little investment of time.
Quick and easy Kaizen helps eliminate or reduce wastes, promotes personal growth of employees and the company, provides guidance for employees, and serves as a barometer of leadership. Each kaizen may be small, but the cumulative effect is tremendous.
The quick and easy kaizen process works as follows:
The employee identifies a problem, waste, or an opportunity for improvement and writes it down.
The employee develops an improvement idea and discusses it with his or her supervisor.
The supervisor reviews the idea within 24 hours and encourages immediate action.
The employee implements the idea. If a larger improvement idea is approved, the employee should take leadership to implement the idea.
The idea is written up on a simple form in less than three minutes.
Supervisor posts the form to share with and stimulate others and recognizes the accomplishment.
Three Key Characteristics
Permanent method changes. Change the method. Once the change is made, you can’t go back to the old way of doing things.
Continuous flow of small ideas. The smaller ideas, the better. Kaizen is small ideas. Innovation takes time and is costly to implement, but kaizen is just day-to-day small improvements that when added together represent both enormous savings for the company and enormous self-esteem for the worker.
Immediate local implementation. Be realistic. Kaizen is done within realist or practical constraints.
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