The Japanese make a distinction between Kaizen and innovation: Kaizen is gradual, uses small steps, conventional know-how and a lot of common sense, while innovation is viewed as being more radical because it comes in big steps.
Kaizen methodology differs from the “command-and-control” improvement programs of the mid-twentieth century.
This philosophy includes making changes and monitoring results, then adjusting. Large-scale pre-planning and extensive project scheduling are replaced by smaller experiments, which can be rapidly adapted as new improvements are suggested.
Kaizen event implementation is primarily focused on actual improvement, although some additional measurement and analysis may be required. Kaizen Implementation requires a company to:
- Train members of the Kaizen team on the Lean principles that they will be applying
- Facilitate an ideation/brainstorming processes to identify improvement options
- Implement improvements by “breaking apart” the process and putting it back together without the waste
- Prepare an action plan with a list of activities required to complete the Kaizen process
- Identify expected measurable improvements
- Obtain participant feedback
- Report Kaizen results and celebrate success
Kaizen activities can be conducted in several ways.
First and most common is to change worker’s operations to make his job more productive, less tiring, more efficient or safer. To get his buy-in as well as significant improvement, worker is invited to cooperate, to reengineer by himself and with help of team mates or a Kaizen support group.
The second way is to improve equipment, like installing foolproof devices and/or changing the machine layout. Third way is to improve procedures. All these alternatives can be combined in a broad improvement plan.
Kaizen focuses on:
- eliminating waste. On the factory floor, this means wasted movement. Setting up tool stations so that everything is within arm’s reach is an easy way of cutting out wasted steps, and iterated over the course of a day, or a month, for two hundred workers, this means greatly increased productivity.
Waste can be turned into profit if it is eliminated and everybody is encouraged to participate improvement efforts
- Standardization is another Kaizen principle. With standardization, you think about what “best practices” are, and you do so in advance. Then you externalize those best practices as much as possible, and you work those practices so that they become automatic
- Measure the standardized operation
- Gauge measurements against requirements
- Standardize the new, improved operations
- Continue cycle ad infinitum
One of the Key Concepts of Kaizen is that “If there is No Action there can be No Success.”
The goal is not a 100% solution that solves all the problems at one time. But rather a 60% solution that can be accomplished in a one-week time frame with the intent to hold another event in several months that further improves the processes. The process doesn’t have to be perfect the first time.
Kaizen is a daily activity whose purpose goes beyond simple productivity improvement. It is also a process that, when done correctly, humanizes the workplace, eliminates overly hard work (both mental and physical) teaches people how to perform experiments on their work using the scientific method and how to learn to spot and eliminate waste in business processes.
For most western companies Kaizen involves a significant change in the corporate culture. This is key. The attitudes of employees, from top management down to new hires will need to change.
Kaizen needs to become something all employees do because they want to, and because they know it is good for them and the company. It can not be something employees do because management dictates that it be done. A significant obstacle to Kaizen in many corporations is that problems are seen as negatives. We don’t like problems. With Kaizen we want to find, report, and fix problems.
Kaizen defines management’s role in continuously encouraging and implementing small improvements involving everyone. That means that if management isn’t ready to lead by example, Kaizen will not get off the ground.
For example, a manager spending a week on the shop floor working with employees to help and encourage them to develop suggestions will help. That manager should also ensure employees see their suggestions acted on immediately. Suggestions should not be implemented next month or next week, but today. In some cases, a suggestion submitted in the morning can be implemented that afternoon, or sooner. Keep employees informed about what happens with their suggestions. Don’t have suggestions disappear into a management “black hole”.
Masaaki Imai lists the following kaizen duties for the different levels in management:
Position: top management:
- be determined to introduce kaizen as a corporate strategy;
- provide support and direction for kaizen by allocating resources;
- establish policy for kaizen goals through policy deployment and audits;
- build systems, procedures ad structures conducive to kaizen
Middle management and staff:
- deploy and implement kaizen goals as directed by top management through policy deployment and cross-functional management;
- use kaizen in functional capabilities;
- establish, maintain and upgrade standards;
- make employees kaizen-consciuous through intensive training programs;
- help employes develop skills and tools for problem solving
- Use kaizen in functional roles;
- Formulate plans for kaizen and provide guidance to workers;
- Improve communications with workers and sustain high morale;
- Support small group activities (such as quality circles) and the individual suggestion system;
- Introduce discipline in the workshop;
- Provide kaizen suggestions
- engage in kaizen through the suggestion system and small gruoup activities;
- practice discipline in the workshop;
- engage in continuous self-development to become better problem solvers