What is Kaizen?
Kaizen is a combination of the Japanese words “kai” meaning change and “zen” meaning continuous improvement. The aim of Kaizen is to ensure the continuity of improvements creating big impacts with small touches in production processes. It includes continuity with permanent solutions instead of solving daily problems. Theoratically a perfect process is an utopia, hence continuous improvement is always possible and required.
One of the most important principles of Kaizen culture is not to spend a single day without any improvement in any unit of the process. Therefore, it ensures that continuous improvement is sustained within the organization. Masaaki Imai invented the culture of Kaizen based on the traditions and culture of the Japan due to its lack of technology to compete after the war with its production capacity and manpower.
It was applied in the manufacturing industry to reduce errors, eliminate waste, increase productivity, promote employee engagement, accountability and innovation. Masaaki Imai has developed a Kaizen methodology based on the potential of manufacturing from one part to the whole in production. The fact that Kaizen is used in all professional fields despite it stems from production industry is one of the greatest examples of continuous improvement being possible in every process.
Institutionalization of Kaizen culture requires regular meetings in an organization. In Kaizen, employees should be involved in regular issues. Suggestion mechanism is to be established in each section with practices such as a suggestion form. Employees involve the problems they experience in their process into suggestion system, and thus in given time, Kaizen culture emerges within the organization.
How is Kaizen Methodology Applied into Organization?
- Diagnose the issue
- Specify the team
- Apply PDCA cycle
- Approach the issue from the piece to the whole
- Do not target the ultimate economic value
- Use right tools to approach to the solution
- Aim sustainability
By implementing all the steps, the target is not only to eliminate the waste, but by resolving the issue with permanent solution.
Purpose is that it will increase benefits in processes, effective arrangement of layouts in the workflow, in the optimum use of energy, in the improvement of tools and machinery, in improving product quality, in creating ideas for new products, in working conditions, in occupational safety and improvement, and will provide economic gain by reducing costs with new ideas and inventions.
Types of Kaizen
Kaizen studies contribute to both personal development and sustainability within the organization. There are different types of Kaizen for this purpose.
- Before-After Kaizen
Before applying Kaizen, the current situation is assessed. Proceeding this, by the leadership of the team leader, the team improves the process and ensures visible changes. Improved status is reported with graphics and charted visuals. Therefore, team members can show the results of Kaizen application.
- Gemba Kaizen
Gemba encourages managers and team leaders to gain better insight into business processes. Gemba is an approach that allows managers and leaders to observe the actual business process, learn about it, interact with employees and discover opportunities for continuous improvement.
- Kobetsu Kaizen
Kobetsu Kaizen stands for individual optimization for more efficient production systems. It focuses on maximizing overall equipment effectiveness and reducing conversion cost.
What is 5S Kaizen Methodology?
5S is a critical part of the Kaizen system and creates an ideal physical workplace. 5S focuses on creating order, proper arrangement, cleanliness, purity and commitment to increase profitability, efficiency, service and safety. The descriptions of the 5S in Japanese are as follows;
- Seiri (sort): Means to put things in order.
- Seiton (systematise): Arrange items to allow easy access in the way that makes the most sense for the business.
- Seiso (clean): Keep the work area clean and tidy.
- Seiketsu (purity): Systematize best practices for workplace cleaning.
- Shitsuke (commitment): Commit to these endeavors.
The Kaizen approach is useful for a wide variety of business models and operational philosophies. It can improve business processes, eliminate waste, improve quality and increase the profitability of your business. Kaizen is not a short term strategy, implementing Kaizen ensures consistent and long-term growth.
Examples of Kaizen
- Lockheed Martin. The aerospace company is a well-known advocate of Kaizen. It has successfully used Kaizen to reduce production costs, inventory and delivery time.
- The time Alan Mulally became Ford’s CEO in 2006, the company was on the verge of bankruptcy. Mulally used Kaizen to achieve one of the most famous corporate transformations in history.
- Pixar Animation Studios. Pixar has implemented a continuous improvement model to reduce the risks of expensive film failure using quality control checks and iterative processes.
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