Implementing kaizen in your supply chain: Easier than you think

One of the first questions of the curious people about Kaizen, besides what is it all about, of course, is how they can successfully implement it in their business. In this post, I will talk a little about this wonderful philosophy, which can be implemented in any commercial field, as well as some simple but powerful ways in which you can change your entire organization for good.

Kaizen is a method of constant work to improve the products, the services offered by your company, and the supply chain in general. The main objective of Kaizen is to improve permanently, starting from the premise that nothing is complete, especially through the efficient identification and elimination of everything that hinders the development of all productive processes.

This philosophy is almost a century old, although its fundamental bases can be traced from eastern systems such as Zen or Tao. It has been used since the Second World War, but it is actually the implementation of millennial principles. It was used during the almost absolute destruction of Japan after the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs. At first, they sought to implement a method of continuous development from basic forms of statistical control to strengthen the nascent Japanese industry, which managed to rise decades later thanks to the investment of our country. Those who implemented the Kaizen method realized that a large number of small improvements could be much more efficient than the implementation of large and radical changes, even when produced with some regularity.

Okay, let’s see how you can move from theory to practice. First off, you cannot start implementing Kaizen if you do not know what problem to solve. The first thing to do, even if it seems obvious, is to know what is failing in your supply chain. Therefore, it is crucial that you learn to identify and define your problems. The second step is to stop considering conflicts as problems, but as opportunities for improvement. When you understand that everything can be improved, that every day you can change something for good, you will stop thinking in terms of problems and you will start thinking in terms of opportunities. That’s Kaizen.

Read also: What is Kaizen Philosophy in Supply Chain Management? by David Kiger

To separate everything which is not necessary to produce is vital, and we could say that it is the second step. How? By simply understanding what is necessary to achieve your productive goals. This includes checking all equipment, materials, machines, personnel, vehicles, etc., and analyzing where the supply chain is failing and then implementing small changes.

Removing “dirt” is also important, and not just for health reasons. Order and cleanliness in all areas of a company help to identify what can be eliminated. In addition, a climate of cleanliness and order helps employees to focus more on their work and maintain that state of cleanliness. Here I am talking about the broken windows theory (check it out, it’s worth it.) Moreover, maintaining cleanliness and order allows you to flag any anomalies that can be solved much more easily. When everything is in order, deploying all your control elements to identify anomalous situations in your company is much simpler: A security camera that does not work, a poorly calibrated cooling system, or a short circuit, for example.

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Image courtesy of danjo paluska at Flickr.com

Again, removing dirt means removing what is not necessary. Determining what is necessary and unnecessary is an art. Ask the person who performs a specific job. This person may know more about it than you do. Actually, companies have more elements than those they really need, practically, in all areas and stages of the supply chain. It is important to get rid of everything unnecessary so that it does not reappear. The key rule is: Can I still accomplish my tasks without this? If the answer is positive, then you should get rid of it. If it is negative then it should stay. It’s simple.

Continuous improvement is a job that you can carry out everyday and to which you could devote a brief time of your daily routine (a brief time that will save you a lot of time in the long run, believe me.) You only have to carry out four basic steps. The first one is to study and train your employees and then plan the activities to be carried out in the short, medium, and long term. The second is to go to action. This includes not only carrying out everything planned, but going personally to your workplaces and reviewing, monitoring, and observing everything that happens with the idea that you can always change it. Remember this well (and sorry for my insistence here): Everything can always be improved, all ideas can always be improved. Nothing is complete, nothing is perfect.

 

Improvement proposals can be made as a team. You can hear them from your own employees. Never forget to document all the decisions you have made in the previous steps and constantly review what has been done, what has not been achieved, and what has not been done yet (for any reason.)

Recommended: Lean Kaizen in Supply Chain

* Featured Image courtesy of Pixabay at Pexels.com

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