Kaizen: Continuous Improvement In The Spotlight
Kaizen (Continuous Improvement) is a strategy where employees at all levels of a company work together proactively to achieve regular, incremental improvements to the manufacturing process.
Kaizen is based on the idea that improvement is a continuous process, not achieved at the first step.
Because of the benefit of continuous improvement, many managers and business owners want to implement Kaizen in their organization.
Actually, Kaizen is part action plan and part philosophy.
As an action plan, Kaizen is about organizing events focused on improving specific areas within the company.
ImportantAs a philosophy, Kaizen is about building a culture where all employees are actively engaged in suggesting and implementing improvements to the company.
Embarking on a journey toward continuous improvement is a long-term commitment and a large, but important, undertaking.
WarningWhile innovation requires a radical, sometimes shocking transformation, Kaizen only asks you to take small, comfortable steps toward improvement.
Kaizen implementation steps can seem ridiculously trivial, but they deliver consistent results.
So why do not learn from the Japanese and try to learn their method that they use in their management? If you want to be successful and proud of the work that you do, Kaizen can help you to achieve this while benefiting your organization.
What Is Kaizen?
Kaizen is typically applied to measures for implementing continuous improvement.
ImportantKaizen refers to any activities that continually improve all business processes and involves every employee from the CEO to the assembly line workers.
Kaizen is an approach to activity organisation based on common sense, self-discipline, order and economy.
Kaizen method is also a strong contributor and fundamental part of a lean production process model in lean manufacturing.
In terms of business, Kaizen means that all activities must be continuously improving.
The kaizen method is now a base model for other quality improvement methods including: suggestion systems, automation, small group activities, Kanban system, just-in-time, zero defects, total productive maintenance, total quality control, etc.
The Kaizen methodology works at constant improvements through the elimination of waste.
It’s been around in Japan since after World War II, though influenced by quality management ideas from the United States.
It’s part of The Toyota Way, which is a set of principles that support the company’s management approach to production.
ImportantIn a sense, Kaizen combines the collective talents within a company to create a powerful engine for improvement.
Successful Kaizen efforts can result in benefits such as increased productivity, improved quality, better safety, lower costs, and improved customer satisfaction.
Kaizen can also lead to benefits in a company’s culture, including improved communication among employees, improved morale and employee satisfaction, and an increased sense of ownership in the company among employees.
Five Key Principles
The basis of Kaizen method consists of 5 key elements, the famous “5 S”. The 5S gets its name from the five words that are used to remind people of the different ways that a facility can become more organized.
These words are Sort, Straighten, Shine, Standardize and Sustain.
WarningWhen implementing 5S many companies find that there is initial resistance from the front line employees, but after each area is organized, cleaned and optimized the way it should be, they are quite happy.
One of the biggest barriers to continuous improvement is clinging to old practices or assuming new methods will fail.
WarningOrganizations should refrain from thinking that just because something worked before means it will continue to work.
A properly handled 5S strategy will not only eliminate waste but also help improve the day to day jobs of every employee.
The goal of any company should be to identify the ideal way to complete a process with as little waste as possible. This is where Kaizen can be extremely helpful.
5S elements are geared towards making every aspect of business organized.
ImportantTherefore, enterprises that embrace the system become more efficient. For instance, if all items in cashier station are uniformly labeled and organized, any of the employees can step in and start serving customers.
5S would not be used to determine how a process should work or how it can be improved, which is why it would not be useful in this situation.
A well-structured workspace reduces accidents and successively creates a safe environment.
When a work area is clean and well organized, there is less tendency of tripping hazards and any other physical dangers to occur.
The continuous cycle of Kaizen activity has seven phases: identify an opportunity, analyze the process, develop an optimal solution, implement it, check the results, standardize the solution and plan for the future.
Kaizen starts with the recognition that a problem exists and that there are opportunities for improvement.
ImportantOnce problems are identified, the organization needs to enlist the cross-functional personnel to understand the underlying cause of it.
The proposed solution are then tested on a small-scale. Using data, the team makes adjustments to the solution.
And finally, the results are spread across the organization and the solution is standardized.
Crucial to these steps is Patience, Empowerment and a vision towards the future.
WarningTo generate a Kaizen, everyone involved must begin thinking about their work in a new way – in terms of now (present condition), next (the desired state) and new (how to reach that state).
Before you proceed to Kaizen, you need to involve your employees because it will later help you to empower them as well.
One of the most fundamental tenets of Kaizen is small, incremental change or one percent improvement each day.
ImportantSmall, incremental changes are easier to implement than large, radical changes but they can have powerful cumulative results.
You know the adage, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
WarningYou cannot do it with a single procedure, in a single day. You need to take small steps and share your experience one piece of information at a time.
How To Pave The Way
The principles are the guiding lights, the action plan is where Kaizen hits the road running. Now you have to pave to way to “kaizen” your organization.
Typically, implementation of Kaizen occurs in three stages in any organization.
ImportantIt’s all about organizing, so that the focus is always on improvement and its target are every part of the organization.
First, you will encourage participation amongst your employees.
To further encourage employee involvement, promote specific Kaizen activities, and consider distributing monetary or tangible benefits after solutions from Kaizen activities are implemented.
Second, you will facilitate training and education of people involved in the process.
WarningTeam leaders should be trained to understand Kaizen in an organizational vision context, which needs to be followed thoroughly in order to achieve desired business objectives.
Measuring performance against existing benchmarks allows you to demonstrate ROI from your kaizen efforts and keep the company aligned around improvement.
Third, you will measure the impacts of Kaizen in your organization.
By keeping track of the beneficial results from the Kaizen process, the company is more likely to continue investing in it and sustaining it.
Remember: Kaizen has to be supported from the top; Employees need to know that they will get support when they need it.
In order to properly implement Kaizen principles for process improvement, there are some useful hacks towards reaching successful its implementation.
Whatever it takes, you must get rid of any fixed ideas you may have based upon conventions.
WarningJust because you’ve always done something a particular way, doesn’t mean that it’s the best way to complete that task. Instead, allow yourself to scrap conventions in exchange for potentials for growth.
Keep in mind that perfection seeking does not lead to progress.
WarningJust the word “perfect” can stop most people in their tracks. Determine a course of action and follow it until you need to adjust it.
Whenever possible, you should implement the 3G approach for decision making.
ImportantThe 3G approach involves Gemba (place or location), Genbutsu (the product), and Genjitsu (the problem being specifically looked at). By viewing the problem, in a given space, related to the product, it helps you to be specific about the changes you wish to implement.
Documenting improvements, making sure standard work is up-to-date, and training employees on new procedures can help sustain the progress you’ve made in your continuous improvement efforts.
Test and implement small changes.
Approach change in small, incremental steps; if you improve by just 1% every day for a year, you’ll be 37 times better than when you started. This increases the speed to improvement and reduces the pressures and risks of implementing a major change.
When mistakes occur, don’t wait to correct them!
ImportantCorrect mistakes as they occur. Make continuous adjustments throughout the process of implementing improvements.
In today’s situation of having to manage multiple projects and to make decisions quicker, managers often try to apply the latest high-cost technologies to handle problems that can be solved with a commonsense, low-cost approach.
The Kaizen method involves the usage of simple tools, checklists, and techniques.
ImportantKaizen empowers your employees and creates good relations between teams so that the whole organization can holistically look towards further improvements.
The Kaizen method doesn’t require the investment of a great deal of money yet offers substantial benefits to any business.
This is why many Japanese companies adopt the process of Kaizen and which is why they are known as some of the most productive companies in the world.
Kaizen is a long-term strategy and the goal is to develop the capabilities and confidence of workers.
ImportantBuilding a mindset of continuous improvement among your organization’s culture requires daily practice, and with time, you’ll see an increase in the efficiency, productivity, and quality of your operations.
What do you think about Kaizen? Did you have implemented it in your company or organization? Share your thoughts and your personal experience in the comments below!