The word kaizen means continuous improvement and was created in Japan following the Second World War. It is a Japanese concept for gradual and continuous improvement. In organizations, the system involves all employees – from the top management to cleaning crew. Everyone is encouraged to come up with suggestions for small improvements on regular basis.
The philosophy is behind many Japanese management concepts which include, Total quality Control, Quality Control Circles, Labor relations and small group activities. It is not a once a month or once a year thing. It is continuous. For Japanese companies like Toyota, a total of 60 to 70 suggestions are written down by each employee, shared and implemented.
The suggestions, in most cases, are not for major changes. Kaizen advocates for the making of little changes regularly to improve productivity, safety and effectiveness, while reducing waste. The changes are made anywhere that allows improvements and not on specific areas like production or marketing. The system has its foundation upon 5 elements which are teamwork, personal discipline, improved morale, quality circles and suggestions for improvement.
Out of the founding elements arise 3 key factors which are:
- Elimination of waste and inefficiency
- Framework of tidiness, orderliness, cleanliness, standardized clean-up and discipline.
Kaizen can be applied in all aspects of life that includes business and home life, as well as social activities. The system involves the setting up of standards and continually improving them. Towards achieving higher standards, training materials and supervision are provided to enable employees achieve the higher standards while maintaining the ability to meet them on a continuous basis.
With every employee focusing on improvements, the following results are expected;
- Waste reduction in inventory, waiting time, over production, transportation, worker skills etc.
- Quality improvement; while most models concentrate on increasing productivity, the philosophy focuses on improving quality, business or system.
- Employee well being; all employees take part in decision making and therefore they are encouraged to better themselves. Companies that have adopted the philosophy are more oriented towards their employees’ welfare.
- Immediate results; because the philosophy does not focus on large and radical changes, several problems are solved creatively through making small improvements without wastes or mistakes.
Just like with the case with many models, kaizen too has some downsides. These include the pulling employees out of their work stations to discuss the way forward.
For some ideas on how Lean and Kaizen supplies might help you in your work environment, we encourage you to visit www.kaizenleansupplies.com. Browse through the products there and see if you don’t come up with some ideas or rather, some products, that might be helpful to you in your lean journey.