The most important tools used in Kaizen

As it was mentioned in other articles, Kaizen methodology is used to make continuous improvements in companies’ processes. This word comes from Japanese and means Improvement. Kaizen technique could be applied in every process in organizations, and involves all employees in the company, from the CEO to the last of its workers.

The operation of Kaizen methodology is focused on the standardization of different activities in businesses’ procedures and could be applied in every industry like banking, healthcare, logistics, among other fields.

Kaizen method includes a lot of important elements, but there are some vital tools for the implementation of this.

Ishikawa diagram

Also known as a cause-and-effect diagram or fishbone diagram, it is a figure used to relate a specific problem with its possible causes and variables, letting companies understand and design possible solutions. In other words, it is a graphical representation of a particular situation to be analyzed and solved., which is affecting some process in the company.

The better way to do this kind of analysis is in groups and through a brainstorming, making easier to understand the problem to be solved. The structure of this scheme is formed by a central horizontal line, which means the problem to be studied, and different branches representing its possible causes. This technique is very useful to connect and involve all the problematic variables in one figure.

This simple but powerful representation is used in Kaizen methodology to know and understand a particular situation, making the improvements they need.

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Image courtesy of ILO in Asia and the Pacific at Flickr.com

Man-Machine diagram

This drawing represents the interactions between man and machines in a specific process, letting to know the time of use by the worker and the machine, with the main purpose of seeing their efficiency for possible improvements.

For manufacturing companies, this is an excellent tool, because it lets them know if there are wasting production times. In Kaizen, this instrument is crucial, due to the possibility to reduce dead times between operators and machines, making the production more efficient.

Gantt diagram

The Gantt diagram is the most common scheme to represent and track projects. This graphic allows companies to establish times and dates for every stage in a particular task. Besides, the Gantt diagram specifies project activities with the responsible person to execute them.

The Gantt diagram is very useful for a project manager or the CEO because it is the way how they can track the status of a project and make required changes. In Kaizen technique, this instrument is very important because, through it, we can establish times, activities and responsible for an improvement project. Moreover, this tool throws data and information about how are project stages to make those continuous improvements that Kaizen method seeks.

Pareto chart

With this diagram companies can know the behavior of different activities and events within a process, determining which of them is the most important for being examined and worked or which of them is creating problems in processes. This scheme is formed by bars and lines, indicating costs, frequencies, trends, among other things letting company leaders to take decisions and make adjustments, achieving a substantial improvement in organization procedures.

The Pareto chart is also known as the 80-20 technique because it let us know the distribution (in percentage) of a specific condition. In other words, through this graphic we can determinate if the 20% of some particular situations are creating the remaining 80% of the problem, giving to leaders the possibility to define priorities and see the principal causes for processes failures.

Six Sigma

We have talked about this statistical technique in other articles. As we have said, this tool lets businesses to see the performance of a particular process with the main goal of improve it and give to customers what they require. Six Sigma methodology uses some statistics tools to work those processes, like the standard deviation, measuring and quantifying the variation of a data value, which is determined by the company. That is to say, Six Sigma seeks to reduce or eliminate failures or imperfections within a process to make it better, giving to customers what they need under the conditions they want.

The Six Sigma principal goal is to get at most 3,4 defects per a million of events. In other words, the main purpose of this important technique is not to reach more than 3,4 failures in a million of executive tasks, where a failure is those that does not accomplish customers needs.

Today, Six Sigma is considered one of the most important tools to preserve quality in a specific process using the DMAIC technique, which establishes five stages; Define, where the customer poses its needs. The measure, where the company collects data and see the status of the process for the client request. Analyze, where all the collected data is examined to see what must be enhanced. Improve, where the process is optimized, and Control, to ensure that this process will remain in suitable conditions for customers needs.

Related: What you need to know about Six Sigma by David Kiger

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