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Understanding Kaizen


Kaizen is a Japanese tradition which has been used to help manufacturing plants to improve their processes as close to perfection as possible. Kaizen is often translated to mean "to become good through change". Like the Toyota Production System and other manufacturing strategies, Kaizen is designed to organize a business and help the business achieve its highest level of efficiency.

Kaizen is founded on 5 basic principles:

  1. Quality Circles. The circles are simply groups of individuals that meet together to discuss the company's current processes. They will identify some of the failures of the current processes and come up with ways to improve them.
  2. Improved Morale. One of the biggest aspects of Kaizen is the employee. The entire method focuses on keeping the employees happy and satisfied with their jobs. Improved employee morale is essential because it improves productivity and efficiency for a long time.
  3. Teamwork. Kaizen is based on the employees and their ability to consider themselves part of a team instead of as individuals. If everyone can get in the mindset the company will run more efficiently and effectively.
  4. Personal Discipline. To build a strong company, each person must have personal discipline. They not only need to have personal discipline, they need to have team discipline. This helps the team remain focused and strong.
  5. Suggestions for improvement. The final principle involves reviewing suggestions from employees. These suggestions should identify some of the common problems within the company so the managers can look for ways to improve them. The problems need to be addressed before they become a large concern for the company and hinder smooth operations.

Kaizen uses the 5 "S" approach as part of its system to organize the company and get everyone to think as a team. The 5 "S" approach involves making things become standardized procedures. This helps to remove inefficiencies within the company. Some of the common things you will implement with Kaizen include the following:

  • Cleanliness

  • Time

  • Orderliness

  • Tidiness

  • Discipline

The entire method is focused on keeping the office clean so things are easier to find. This helps people perform their jobs more efficiently and it improves production. Kaizen is a long-term approach to fixing the problems within a company. Kaizen is not only focused on improving the business as a whole, it also focuses on improving each individual.

Since Kaizen is a positive way to improve problems, several companies prefer to implement it over harsh programs like behavior-based safety. The companies normally have employees that are satisfied with their jobs and want to remain with the company for several years.

Several Japanese companies have implemented Kaizen and found it to be extremely effective.

Their success has inspired many companies in the United States to try it. Companies that have implemented Kaizen have reported a 15 to 20 percent growth within the first year. Here are a few notable companies that have implemented Kaizen with successful results:

  • Ford Motor Company

  • Intel Corporation

  • Lockheed Martin

  • Maytag

  • Sandia National Labs

It is important to recognize that Kaizen is not a solution for every organization. The job of Kaizen is simply to identify the problem and make steps toward solving it. Companies with larger problems may need to consider another program like Six Sigma. Without proper planning of Kaizen, you will fail. Kaizen should not be used for every problem, which is why it is important to hire a lean manufacturing company to come in and help you properly implement Kaizen. Some businesses find that meeting daily doesn't help to solve their problems but they are solved when they only meet once a month.

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