Kaizen is a Japanese word which means “Change for the Good”. Kaizen involves making small changes and overcoming resistance to change. Kaizen eliminates waste by removing Non Value Adding Activities which result in improved standardized systems, efficiency, processes, quality, delivery, service and cost savings. Kaizen roots began in the 1930s. Sakichi Toyoda, founder of Toyota, challenged his coworkers by saying “Open the window, it is a big world out there”.
Kaizen can be used on any process, task, or function. It can be used for improvement for administrative tasks, maintenance, engineering, business, and logistics just to name a few. Kaizen eliminates waste by removing Non Value Adding Activities which result in improved standardized systems, efficiency, processes, quality, delivery, service and cost savings. Kaizen is considered to be the "building block" of all lean production methods. Its roots began in the 1930s. Sakichi Toyoda, founder of Toyota, challenged his coworkers by saying “Open the window - it is a big world out there”. In the 1950’s Toyota implemented quality circles leading to the development of the Toyota Production System. The Toyota Production System is a system of continuous improvement in quality, technology, processes, company culture, productivity, safety and leadership. The continual small improvements (Kaizen) from these activities lead to substantial long term benefits as a whole to the organization. Kaizen uses the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle as a Lean operating model. It is based on the idea that you create a plan for change, do a trial of the change, check the outcomes or results, and then act upon the results to implement the change.
Lean and Six Sigma are longer duration endeavors. Kaizen is more a continuous improvement mindset as opposed to a specific tool. Kaizen uses personal creativity and ingenuity to identify problems and then develop and implement ideas to solve the problems. The best method is whichever method is appropriate for the project. They all have specialized tools and none of them fit every job or process you are trying to improve. There are instances where Lean principles are most appropriate, others where Six Sigma is the best fit, and still more where Kaizen is the best application.
Kaizen is an intensive burst of business process improvement.
- A Kaizen event usually lasts anywhere from ½ a day to 5 days in duration.
- All stakeholders with a vested interest in the improvement attend the Kaizen event.
- It must have clearly defined objectives such as:
- Reduce costs by 20%
- Reduce waste by 50%
- Reduce cycle time of the process by 40%
The first part of Kaizen is to understand lean principles and Kaizen characteristics. The second part is kaizen event planning which includes the following activities:
- Leadership involvement
- Scoping the event
- Event logistics
- Team formation
- Pre event communication
The third part of Kaizen is event execution includes:
- The Kaizen event kickoff
- Documentation of the current state
- Identifying waste
- Performing root cause analysis
- Designing and testing improvements
- Implementation of the improvements
- Event wrap up
The final part of Kaizen is to set in motion sustainment activities and further developing the Kaizen culture of the organization.