An Introduction to Kaizen

kaizenIf you are looking to improve your workplace or implement Lean manufacturing, it’s critical to understand the philosophy of Kaizen. Adopting the Kaizen mindset can have a major influence on productivity, quality, and processes and when practiced correctly, you will likely find great success.

So, what is Kaizen? Kaizen is a Japanese word that means improvement or change for the better. It is a culture of continuous improvement and promotes the concept that small changes are often better than drastic changes. Kaizen uses incremental changes that may seem insignificant, but when practiced rigorously, it all adds up to major improvement. The philosophy empowers employees from all levels and can keep employees more engaged with their job. Kaizen is usually practiced in two different forms: daily Kaizen and Kaizen events.

Daily Kaizen

When utilized daily, Kaizen is adopted as a mindset and is woven into the organization’s culture. Improvements are made on a daily basis, and not only as mandated by managers in supervisors. Instead, it relies on frontline employees and those working on the factory floor. These are the experts as they observe and work with processes every day. It’s important everyone is trained and encouraged to share abnormalities they spot and suggestions for a solution. It may be a bit slow at first, but over time people will become more used to seeing a small issue and fixing it right away.

Kaizen Events

A Kaizen event, sometimes called a kaizen blitz, is a more concentrated on a specific process or issue that can be solved in a short amount of time. These events are conducted over a few days or a couple weeks with a set goal in mind. A team is created that meet over the course of the event and work towards designing a solution. Following the Kaizen event, the changes are analyzed, and data is collected to determine whether or not it was successful.

The PDCA Cycle

However, you choose to implement Kaizen, most activities are carried out using the PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act) Cycle. The PDCA Cycle is a four-step process that when utilized, guides you through continuous improvement. The cyclical nature begins with the planning process where the issue is assessed, and the problem is clearly detailed. Possible solutions are formulated which will be carried out in the next step. In the check phase, you follow up to gauge how effective the changes were. Finally, you act. If the solution worked well, start implementing those changes across the facility with starting at the plan phase. However, if the outcome was not desirable move back to the plan phase again and try new solutions.

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