What is Kaizen Philosophy in Supply Chain Management?

Ever see a company have a grand concept that will change the way it does business? They institute this concept in one gigantic scale, seeking the fastest improvements in the shortest time period possible. Sometimes this concept works and changes the way the company does business. Other times, it is only a short-term improvement that fizzles out in the end because while it was designed with the best of intentions, it did not have the full participation of everyone involved and had too many processes happening all at once that it left employees confused and disoriented.

The Kaizen philosophy is an old concept that has taken new life in the production industry world. In short, it focuses on smaller changes that will have a widespread impact in processes. It also requires buy-in from every person involved as David Kiger has found it is most often accepted in supply chain management and lean manufacturing.

What is the Kaizen Philosophy?

The Kaizen philosophy is not new. It is credited to Dr. W. Edwards Deming back during World War II. In an effort to restore business development and the industrial landscape of Japan, Edward Deming was invited to this country to provide desired training in statistical control methods. His teachings focused on continuous improvements made in a systematic approach. By working at smaller increments, these improvements can begin to create efficient and quality improvements that will last throughout the business in the long term. This philosophy was coined, “kaizen” which in Japanese means, “change for the better.”

The Kaizen philosophy has gained ground in supply chain management although it can apply to any area in your business. It focuses on having every worker in the business focus on making small changes for the overall improvement of the company. This method is desirable because it takes all the resources, innovations and strategies and focuses them on one step of the improvement process until it reaches a level of desired efficiency before moving on.

How the Kaizen Philosophy can Help Your Supply Chain Management

While supply chain management is thought of as one large process, it involves so many smaller intricate procedures to keep it running. You work with suppliers to obtain raw materials. You develop production processes to create quality products while keeping costs low and reducing waste. You have sales departments marketing products to customers to satisfy the customers’ current needs. Then you have manufacturers working with distributors in making sure these products reach customers and are used in the correct manner for customer satisfaction.

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When you apply the Kaizen philosophy in your supply chain management, you are focusing your efforts entirely on one aspect of the large process whether it is how you manufacture the product or how that product is shipped to customers, David Kiger teaches small businesses. Every employee provides input on how to make that process better and then increases their productivity accordingly. You test and monitor the small improvement continuously to ensure the adoption and implementation of the strategy has brought desired results that can be seen throughout the supply chain. Then you continue to make other small improvements to the process regularly.

Benefits of the Kaizen Philosophy

David Kiger notes that the biggest benefit of the Kaizen philosophy is to make the strategies of increasing efficiency in the supply chain and developing quality products a team effort. Everyone has bought into the strategy and strives to follow the basic four steps of assessing, planning, implementing and evaluating the concept for the long term. Such a concentrated effort not only will allow your business to reach short-term goals, but to develop a stronger supply chain that will always be improving during the long term for the life of the company.

Yet before you take that first step into adopting and implementing the Kaizen philosophy, you need to figure out what processes you seek to improve and develop ways in which you plan to perform measurable tests to assess improvements. Taking on too much at one time or not properly assessing the process will create greater difficulties with your supply chain management.

It is vital to also have buy-in from everyone. You can’t just apply the philosophy to select workers and management personnel. From the lowest employee of the operation’s totem pole to the top management tier, everyone needs to understand and accept the changes that will be implemented, will have the training desired to create these changes, and will focus their productivity for the betterment of the supply chain.

The Kaizen philosophy relies on the concept that making continuous small improvements can lead to better results for the long term. This approach can be adopted in certain areas of your business, such as the supply chain, to improve the quality of products while making the production processes more efficient.