Three vital concepts around the Kaizen philosophy

We all know that some of the most important manufacturing concepts have been created in Japan, under the Kaizen philosophy. As we have seen, this concept is vital for those organizations that want to improve their processes and production techniques, due to the cost reduction and effective increasing it gives. Today, if any company wants to enhance their procedures and be more competitive, it is crucial to adopt some of the Kaizen thinking aspects, which gives excellent tools for processes restructuration.

Since the Kaizen philosophy foundation after the World War II, there have been multiple elements related with it, giving to the organizations working on this thinking the possibility to be more productive and with a continuous improvement in their activities. In this article, we will see some of the most significant elements of the Kaizen approach, which will give us a great idea about what this theory is and how it works in today’s businesses.

We have defined Kaizen in previous posts, but it is important to have a brief definition of this concept for this article.


This Japanese word means improvement and is used by multiple organizations that are working under a continuous improvement methodology. The main purpose of the Kaizen thinking is to eliminate and remove from a particular process those wasting elements to have a higher production quality and better manufacturing techniques. This philosophy involves not only the operative and technical workers but also the CEO’s, directors and managers. Moreover, this approach has been used in multiple industries, like healthcare, government, banking, technology, retail, among other fields.

With this simple and short explanation, then we can talk about other important concepts that are crucial for the implementation of the Kaizen thinking, and how they are used by the companies working under this model. In addition, we can say that these concepts are part of the Japanese businesses.

The 5S methodology

This technique refers to 5 Japanese words (seiri, seiton, seiso, seiketsu, and shitsuke), which are used for organizing the workspace in companies, in other words, these concepts denote the principal elements to consider for having a clean and prepared workspace in a particular procedure.

The Japanese word Seiri could be traduced as Sort, which refers to those actions for identifying the elements that are necessary for the workplace from those that are unnecessary. The Seiton stage, means Order, letting to those people involved in a particular process structure the elements it uses in the right way so they can be found easier and faster. Seiso means Clean, referring to the elimination of those anomalies in the workspace. The last two phases are Seiketsu and Shitsuke, which means Standardization and Discipline respectively, and meaning that any process must have visible and simple rules for being a successful and productive one.

Image courtesy of Florence Ivy at


As Kaizen, the Kaikaku concept has its origins in the Toyota Production System. This Japanese word means “radical changes”, referring to those actions to be taken for changing deeply a particular process. Put differently, Kaikaku are the activities made by the organizations to establish fundamental and drastic changes in a specific procedure, achieving different results, benefiting the business.

Unlike the Kaizen thinking, the Kaikaku approach is focused on a complete change in a particular process, while Kaizen builds little and incremental variations, making the process more effective. Like Kaizen, Kaikaku involves all the employees in the organization, from the line workers to the top hierarchy members. For doing these radical changes, the Kaikaku thinking can bring new ideas, innovative techniques, and disruptive procedures, obtaining the fundamental variations it seeks.

Muda, Mura, and Muri

Like the Kaizen and Kaikaku thinking, the Muda, Mura and Muri concepts have their origins in the Toyota Production System. These terms are related with wasting processes reduction, so companies can improve their procedures, reducing costs, increasing the production quality and being more profitable.

The Muda concept refers to those activities in a particular process that are considered unnecessary, consuming more resources than it needs, and causing wasting elements. In other words, Muda implies all those tasks that are giving no added value to the process where they are or for the product where they participate.

Mura is the term used for the activities that support the Just in time philosophy, helping the processes to have what they need, at the right moment and with the correct amounts, for the resources maximization. In addition, the Mura concept lets organizations have the needed production, avoiding to have more production than the company requires.

The other important concept of these three types of waste is Muri. Through it, organizations can know where to standardize their procedures, so they can be more ordered and disciplined in their manufacturing activities. That is to say that with uniform and homogenized procedures, businesses can reduce their wasting elements, avoiding reprocessing tasks. In other words, Muri lets companies know where they have no standardized actions in their processes.

Related: Kaizen: Focused On Reducing Waste by David Kiger

* Featured Image courtesy of SparkFun Electronics at


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