The principal methods for applying the Kaizen thinking

Within the Kaizen methodology, there are different techniques letting the companies using it to work on this thinking. As we all know, the Kaizen approach makes organizations to develop and execute in a more effective and optimum way their business processes. Thanks to this philosophy, institutions are letting aside those activities that make their procedures more inefficient and unproductive.

As we have seen in other articles from this blog, the Kaizen approach is a Japanese methodology that let organizations improve constantly their procedures and processes, for being more productive and competitive in the industry they are participating. In other words, this Japanese philosophy lets businesses to implement better practices for increasing their products and services quality, reducing their production costs and add value to their customers.

As we mentioned, the Kaizen philosophy uses different actions and techniques for its implementation. In this post, we will see three of the most used methods for its development and how they work in the Kaizen thinking. In addition, we will see the relation of these activities with the Kaizen approach and differences between them.

The 5 S methodology

This technique has its origins in Japan, more specifically in Toyota in the 1960 decade. It was designed for reaching a cleaner, more productive and better workspace in this company, but years later, this method was adopted by multiple organizations, both in the manufacturing field and other industries around the world, due to the great results it had in Toyota and Japan.

The 5 S method obtains its name from five Japanese words, which are Seiri, Seiton, Seiso, Seiketsu, and Shitsuke. Seiri, means classification or waste elimination. Within the Kaizen thinking, this term could be used for eliminating from the workspace those needless elements that make it an unproductive space. Put differently, the Seiri concept helps to eliminate the waste and unnecessary activities from the different business processes to making them more productive.

The Seiton term means order or location and refers to those activities for organizing in an efficient way the working space, having the needed elements and components for doing in the best way the required tasks. In the Kaizen approach, the Seiton concept lets to organize the manufacturing procedures with the adequate components.

Another crucial concept is Seiton, which means cleaning. This term is vital, because having a clean and tidy workspace, lets companies do easier what they have to do. In other words, with a clean working environment, the processes and activities could be done in a better way, which is traduced in productivity and efficiency.

The last two concepts for the 5 S methodology are Seiketsu and Shitsuke, which means standardization and discipline respectively. With standardized processes, working tasks and production activities are done in a more ordered way. With discipline, all these functions are made more sense and responsibility.

The Deming Circle

Industrial machine shop manufacturer_Shanghai_logistics_kaizen
Image courtesy of Mitch Altman at Flickr.com

This technique is also known as the PDCA circle for its activities (Plan, Do, Check and Act). The Deming Circle is one of the most used and effective techniques in the constant improvement thinking, promoted by the Kaizen philosophy. Under this methodology, every activity and action made by the organizations have an specific sense and order. Moreover, every taken decision or task is supported by a defined strategy developed by these 4 stages.

In the Plan stage, the organization designs and develops the necessary activities for implementing a new process or to redefine it. Put differently, this phase lets companies to establish some actions to be done in the processes it has, with the main purpose of being more competitive, efficient and productive.

The Do phase is where all the planned activities are made and put in practice by the company. That is to say that in this stage, organizations execute the planned tasks with the main purpose of improving their processes and procedures.

In the Check stage, companies must examine what they are doing and if the executed activities are the ones that were planned. Here, organizations must study if what they are doing is having the desired results and improving their business processes.

In the Act step, companies must take the results and data from the other stages and see if they must be modified or if they are working for the desired needs. In this phase, the company could have a feedback for redesign its strategy and improving activities.

The DMAIC technique

The DMAIC technique involves five stages which are Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control. The Define step is where the customer or identified needs are determined. The second phase is where the process of the detected needs is measured for establishing if it is working or not. The Analyze part is where the measured information is examined for finding improvement opportunities. The last two stages are where the activities for improving are applied and controlled for keeping the desired results and productivity.

Related: The different phases for Kaizen implementation by David Kiger

* Featured Image courtesy of Steve at Flickr.com

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