You might be wondering what KAIZEN means. Well, we will have to split it in two: KAI means ‘change’ and ZEN means ‘good’. In other words, it means continuous improvement and this philosophy consists of several steps that allow us to analyze critical variables of the production process and seek their improvement on a daily basis with the help of multidisciplinary teams.
This philosophy aims to have a better quality and reduce production costs with simple daily changes. Workers who apply Kaizen to their job will be improving the standards of the company and, in doing so, the company may come to have even higher standards and achieve the goals set beforehand. This is why it is important that the new standards created by improvements or modifications are analyzed and intended to always meet the safety, quality and productivity standards of the company.
Where did Kaizen come from?
Its origin is Japanese. As a result of the Second World War, at the end, Japan faced many problems in the industry field. This is why they created the Japanese Union of Scientists and Engineers (JUSE). This Union decided to invite Dr. William Edwards Deming, and engineer and management consultant Joseph M. Juran to participate in various seminars. Thus, by working together, they were able to create a new methodology to improve the business system.
The most important fundamentals in the accomplishment of Kaizen philosophy are commitment and discipline at all levels of the company. Discipline and consistency are what make kaizen different from other methodologies. After fixing a problem, the group of people performing Kaizen continues to improve; they do not stop or go on stand-by while waiting for another problem to come. As for commitment, we would like to emphasize that all levels of the company have to be involved with kaizen. It is very common to say that kaizen is for plant employees and operators. However, it is not like that. Kaizen starts from the top of the company down; when the president starts improving his level, then so do leaders, managers and supervisors. They get involved and make part of teams to keep improving every day. There may be teams in finance, Customer Service, Sales, Supply Chain, any department, any field.
Why is it actually useful?
Kaizen uses the Deming Circle as a tool for constant progress. This tool is also known as PDCA by its acronym in English -Plan-Do-Check-Act-. Wikipedia defines it as “an iterative four-step management method used in business for the control and continuous improvement of processes and products.”
What steps should I follow?
- Plan. In this phase, the team sets the goal, analyzes the problem and defines the action plan.
- Do. Once you have the plan of action, stick to it, carry it out and keep record.
- Check. After some time, analyze the results of the plan.
- Act. Once you have the results, you can decide whether any changes are required in order to improve.
In companies, kaizen is used to detect and solve problems in all areas and it has as a priority to review and optimize all processes that are performed. A company with Kaizen philosophy has as its primary competitive advantage to always be in change for the better and the staff is motivated performing kaizen activities.
Does it require any investment?
Kaizen teams should be reviewing and improving day by day as much as their resources allow them to do so. The most important thing here is that if the team gets to have a solution and an investment must be done, it has to be accepted by the company. It should be noted that not all solutions require investment.
Ishikawa, Pareto and Histogram are the most used tools used in Kaizen
How to implement Kaizen and what structure should your company have?
Kaizen is a philosophy for the company so its implementation has certain steps. For us, the first and most important step is choosing a topic for the Kaizen. It can be selected by the president or CEO as long as it is in line with the company objectives. Some possible topics may include areas such as: security, related to reducing accidents; quality according to requirements made by customers; productivity as in improving timing; environment, and others…
For example, if the objective of the company is to increase production, different kinds of kaizen can be made toward the same objective. For instance, increasing the capacity of machines, reducing unnecessary reprocesses, improving working methods and some others that could be used in areas identified as the most critical in each department.
The structure of kaizen in the organization is the fundamental basis for avoiding obstacles in time.