Creative Safety Supply
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

What is Kaikaku?

3 min read

When most people think of Lean ideologies and methodologies, they think of kaizen and continuous improvement first. However as one moves deeper into Lean, you begin to add new vocabulary and processes to your Lean tool bag. Today’s word of the day: kaikaku.

Most that know or have heard of kaizen think of it as a slow continuous improvement that is necessary to sustain a successful operation. Kaikaku, on the other hand, translates to “radical improvement or change.” While the two can coincide together, they do possess stark differences in their approach, vision, and subsequent results. Here is a side-by-side comparison of the two:

Kaizen Continuous Improvement

  • Planning and execution timeline of hours to weeks
  • Smaller projects
  • Smaller staff and resources required
  • Faster results with small, individual contributions to the bottom line
  • Tactical

Kaikaku Large-scale, radical change

  • A lean initiative or event with a planning timeline of weeks to months, but execution can range from hours to weeks
  • Generally larger projects
  • More staff and resources required
  • Results are seen slowly, however with larger, coinciding and various contributions to the bottom line
  • Strategic

kaikaku can determine success or failure Both kaizen and kaikaku require a skilled, vested group of individuals that believe in the organization they are trying to improve. However, which approach your organization decides to implement will depend on their overall skill set and readiness for the change they are about to take on. The challenges both kaizen and kaikaku present are cannot be overlooked and must be addressed by management, prior to implementation.

The Challenge of Kaikaku

  • Increased resources and time: The amount of resources necessary for a successful kaikaku implementation is much larger than a normal kaizen event. Senior management must be engaged in the process due to the significance of the change about to occur. This will require them to set aside other tasks and make major decisions that could ultimately decide the fate of the organization, if gone wrong.
  • Takes creativity and capital: Kaikaku is supposed to lead to a revolutionary change that drastically improves the bottom line and/or value stream of the organization. This takes creative minds that can think outside the box, but also the capital to allow them to implement their creative ideas. Typically, a Lean process is supposed to do more with less, but in the case of kaikaku, it sometimes takes a little capital to provide the large scale change you’re looking for. However, the benefits are usually large with kaikaku, so the return on investment is worth it and seen faster than normal.

Swinging for the Fences

The risk/reward factor is significantly higher with kaikaku, over kaizen. If you’re a sports fan, think of baseball and the difference between a home run hitter and one that hits for a high average, with lots of base hits. The home run hitter goes up swinging for the fences every time. The reward is high because if they connect, the result is a minimum of one run for the team. The risk is that they strike out and your team now has an out for the inning. However, the one who hits for average is up there just trying to make contact and get on base. The reward is low because they may just get a single and never get further than first base, but the chances of them getting out is also low.

The baseball analogy might not click for everyone, but the point is; you can use them both to win. Baseball like all team sports, takes a team to win. Therefore, intertwining your singles and home run hitters can lead to tremendous success is done correctly.  The same could be said about kaizen and kaikaku.


In order for your organization to have success with kaikaku, you have to appreciate the importance and value kaizen has. If not, your organization’s ability to sustain the “radical” change, may fall flat on its face. When dealt with a problem or situation that requires a revolutionary change (kaikaku) to happen, you may not always get the initial results you were looking for. However through continuous improvement (kaizen), you can continue to push towards the results you were initially looking for.

The Ten Commandments of Kaikaku

By: Hiroyuki Hirano

  1. Throw out the traditional concept of manufacturing methods
  2. Think about how the new method will work, not how it won’t work
  3. Don’t accept excuses; totally deny the status quo
  4. Don’t seek perfection; a 50% implementation rate is fine as long as it’s done on the spot
  5. Correct mistakes the moment they are found
  6. Don’t spend money on kaikaku
  7. Problems give you a chance to use your brains
  8. Ask “why” five times
  9. Tens person’s ideas are better than one person’s knowledge
  10. Kaikaku knows no limits







1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

Vocoli Takes Suggestion Box To New Level

3 min read

Has Vocoli saved the suggestion box?

The traditional suggestion box has long been thought of as a thing of the past. The dusty wood box that no one can usually find, sitting with a couple of broken pencils and some half doodled pieces of paper, has been in desperate need of an upgrade for years.

Vocoli, a product of a Brighton-based Web development firm Massachusetts Technology Corp, was launched in September and is attempting change the way you think about suggestion boxes.

Any company founded on the will to continuously improve needs voices to push it along. Often times, these voices tend to get choked out in a dusty box. They get forgot about, left for too long, and by the time they make it into the hands of someone who can make a difference, it’s a lost cause. In attempts to spark innovation, collaboration, and maybe most importantly, participation, Vocoli is a cloud based, virtual suggestion box that allows employees to submit suggestions, comments and ideas from anywhere, anytime, from essentially any device.

Vocoli is a pay-for-service software that allows organizations to offer a fully interactive platform for employees and managers to rate ideas, add comments and input additional data on how a particular idea impacted operations.

Vocali suggestion boxVocoli Benefits

Create Campaigns

A nice feature with the Vocoli software is the ability for leaders to target specific organizational challenges and allow the team to collaborate on finding a workable solution.

  • Set campaign start and end dates
  • Set reward amounts for motivation
  • See number of related ideas and pre- and post-campaign.

Social Collaboration

Contributors will have an option to improve each other’s ideas with the organization’s collective knowledge.

  • Discuss and rate ideas before submitting to management
  • View the latest and trending topics
  • Incorporate comments into the submission
  • Up- and down-vote to bring the best conversations to the top.

Established Workflow

Never lose a great idea again!

  • Program administrators can assign department heads to review ideas and then accept or decline them
  • Dashboard tools help quickly keep ideas progressing through each step of the process
  • Mange the idea process with reminders to department heads, follow-through and status tracking
  • Ideas can be set aside for further evaluation and clarity from the author.

User Friendly

Employees want something that’s user friendly and allows them flexibility. The interface Vocoli offers is easy-to-use, allowing contributors to focus on their creativity, instead of how to figure out how to use it.

  • Customizable screens to meet your organizations needs and audience
  • Desktop, tablet, and mobile compatible from any browser, anytime, anywhere.
  • Users can upload documents and images to clarify and support their ideas
  • Contributors can share credit with others
  • Save an idea and finish it later.

According to Boston Business Journal reporter Sara Castellanos, the company has about a dozen customers after the first few months and anticipate further growth in the upcoming year. Their target market, according to their CEO Richard Kneece, is for companies with more than 100 employees, but their site claims the benefits could help any organization.


We are trying to create an avenue.. to allow somebody who has these ideas to submit them in an organized way.

Richard Kneece

Tools like these can be an encouraging sign to your employees. A sign that you care about their opinion and value their input on serious challenges facing your organization. Employees that feel like they are a contributing factor in the progression and continuous improvement effort, are more likely to put forth and more importantly, sustain the effort needed to make programs like these a valuable asset to your organization.

Engaging your employees is a critical part of your operations. The first one to put out a suggestion box years ago was forward thinking and innovative for the time, but over time, it became misused and abused. The Vocoli software is innovative and forward thinking as well, overtime, we will see if it can help to sustain improvement in organizations and keep them moving forward as well.

Free Kaizen Guide

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

Hansei 101

3 min read

We are reminded time and time again (and rightfully so), Lean is about culture. It is a crucial part and in most cases, the backbone of any Lean organization. A culture that believes in continuous improvement and practices what they preach day in and day out, is the key to sustaining Lean. What’s less talked about, is what goes into a culture that allows it to gain the strength needed to sustain an organization’s Lean processes. Enter hansei.

What is Hansei?

The Japanese term “hansei,” can simply be translated into English as “reflection,” but in the Lean community and especially Toyota, it has a much bigger meaning.


Hansei is really much deeper than reflection. It is really being honest about your own weaknesses. If you are talking about only your strengths, you are bragging. If you are recognizing your weaknesses with sincerity, it is a high level of strength.

Jeffery Liker, The Toyota Way

Hansei is a method of reflectionOne of the keys to Toyota’s success throughout the years and what many of us are still trying to wrap our heads around, is the art of hansei. All to often, we overlook our weaknesses and attempt to cover them up with our strengths, as if they will eventually conquer our flaws in the end. But in reality, this is about as counterintuitive as you could be when promoting a continuous improvement philosophy.

An individual must accept the fact that they have flaws and weaknesses, Otherwise their ability to continuously improve and have a positive impact on the culture that surrounds them, is at a significant disadvantage.

The key elements to hansei:

  • Helps the individual recognize a problem.
  • Allows individual to accept responsibility of a problem with a high level of emotion.
  • Pushes the individual towards a plan of action to improve

Everyone’s Reflection is Different

Hansei can be one of the most powerful concepts in your organization, if it’s accepted. Critical self analysis is always a tough pill to swallow in the American culture. Mike Masaki, president of the Toyota Technical Center from 1995-2000, found this out first hand.

Upon a visit to an American facility, Masaki pointed out some “very bad” parts to the American designers. This criticism was met with an uncomfortable reaction by most, which was unusual to Masaki, who spent a lot of time critiquing different elements of Toyota at the time.


In Japan the reaction is I should have designed this better I made a mistake! The U.S. designer’s expectation is that I did a good job so I should be rewarded. This is a big cultural difference.

Mike Masaki, former president of Toyota Technical Center

  It is well known and even self-criticized that Toyota spends little, if any, time celebrating success. Instead, they spend more time overcoming and more importantly, accepting weakness.

Man reflecting (hansei)No one expects (at least not overnight), a complete culture shift in the American workforce. It’s what makes us unique and allows us to create our own identity. However, when you’re able to least consider the fact that you have weaknesses and are willing to work on what it’s going to take to improve upon them, the possibilities are endless.

The problem is, it is a lot more work to find what you’re bad at, then it is to point out your strengths. It is all in the mindset though. I don’t necessarily feel you should completely take praise and recognition out all together like some suggest, but I do feel that a different mindset is needed to effectively use the hansei concept. Which is, no matter the success one has, there is always room for improvement.

This is not to say that what you did was wrong, but rather an opportunity to do something better. However the only way to present yourself with this valuable opportunity, is through the hansei process. When done immediately upon completion of a project or job, the possibility for value adding improvement is at it’s highest point. Some even have a regular hansei-kai (reflection meeting) to reflect on current events, progress, and even personnel issues.

When you are able to truly grasp the concept and intent of hansei, there really is no downside. If you are honest with yourself and are able to accept criticism as an opportunity, rather than a negative, your ability to lead a culture of continuous improvement will strengthen beyond imagine.


Without hansei it is impossible to have kaizen. In Japanese hansei, when you do something wrong, at first you must feel really, really sad. Then you must create a future plan to solve that problem and you must sincerely believe you will never make this type of mistake again.

Jeffery Liker, The Toyota Way

Free Kaizen Guide

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

Money Can’t Buy Continuous Improvement

3 min read

Money Can’t Buy Me…

Money can buy a lot of things. Those with and without money, have various opinions on happiness, love and the power that wealth brings. Throughout time, money has allowed individuals and organizations to do both good and bad with their financial power. However, there are somethings in life and business that simply have no price tag.

From the outside looking in, the success of continuous improvement (Kaizen) is often mistaken for the company with the biggest budget, best gadgets, highest payrolls and so on. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth and thankfully so.



You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you.

Maya Angelou

Culture Wins Championships

Wasted MoneyFor a quick comparison lets look at American sports franchises. In 2012, of the 25 highest payrolls in American sports franchises, only one took home a title. In fact, more often than not the team with the highest payroll rarely gets fitted for a ring at the end of the season. Instead, the team with something much more valuable and sustainable tends to have the longest, most successful season.  Their secret is in their locker room not their wallets. A locker room that consists of a culture that believes in their ability to continuously improve day in and day out and a passion to do so.

Similar to sports, continuous improvement takes a culture that has a unified belief in the process and the people to be successful. Without a lean culture that is fundamentally sound and involved in the daily process, it doesn’t matter how much money you spend trying to improve.


You don’t need to spend much money to improve something. Look around and your common sense shows you simple ways to rationalize your everyday work. Most problems can be solved by common sense, and not money or high-tech equipment.

Masaaki Imai

Mr. Imai has been considered by many to be the father of continuous improvement. His teachings of Kaizen are focused on the people and not the financial investment your organization makes. He’s further added that Kaizen is about improving everyday, everybody and everywhere.

How Can I Do This Better?

Part of the 10 Commandments to Continuous Improvement is having a “yes we can” attitude. The ultimate obstacle in your continuous improvement path is having a member of your team who doesn’t believe a challenge can be met or a process can be improved.

The common sense approach Mr. Imai speaks of is possible when the mindset of every individual truly believes everything they do, can and will be done better. They look at every situation as one that can be made more efficient and productive for themselves and others as well. Challenge individuals to make suggestions and come up with ideas to improve their work. There is no monetary value or financial incentive you can put on an individuals willingness to want to do better. It is built into them and will spread like a wildfire within your culture.

Don’t Spend To Fix

This is the ultimate trap. When you begin your Lean journey and continuous improvement process keep it simple and inexpensive. The equipment and supplies you think you need are a common misconception among Lean first-timers. Instead, focus on the people, encouraging them to be creative and innovative. From the beginning, members of the organization have to feel like they are a part of something and that their opinion means something to the group.

Building a foundation on your people and ultimately the process over a capital investment is a major key to a sustained lean culture. When people have a passion and a belief that anything is possible, there are no limits to your improvement capabilities. New machines and expensive devices are nice to look at, but they are not what’s going to take your organization to the next level. Invest in your people, not with dollars, but with trust. Make them feel like the most valuable asset to your Lean culture and watch the transformation unfold.

Free Kaizen Guide

Free Kaizen Guide










1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

Jishuken 101

3 min read

What is Jishuken?

For those that work in a Lean inspired organization, the term “kaizen” is one of the more popular terms heard when someone talks about improvement. Kaizen though, is more of a philosophy than an actual activity. Jishuken however, is an actual activity within the kaizen philosophy that is driven by management and involves identifying specific areas in need of continuous improvement. An easy way to think of jishuken is to think of it as a “self study.” Within jishuken is another element where information is shared and spread throughout the entire organization to help stimulate kaizen.

The origin of jishuken has been said to be from a Japanese statement “kanban houshiki bukachou jishu kenkyuukai,” which means “kanban system department an section manager autonomous study groups.” This was later shortened to jishuken which is “self study” and often called “autonomous study groups” in English.


jishuken in actionHistory

The strategy behind jishuken is primarily that of a management driven activity aimed at getting team leaders and managers to conduct hands-on kaizen activities at the operational area, like the factory floor.

When Taiichi Ohno first began to develop the Toyota Production System (TPS), he required managers to gather on the factory floor to do hands-on kaizen activities. This would generally involve department managers and section managers from the Motomachi and Kamigo factories getting together, choosing a specific theme and working towards various ways to improve processes.

Although it would have been more cost-effective to let engineers perform this type of gemba kaizen, involving the managers in the kaizen process helped them understand, take ownership and build a culture of genchi genbutsu (go and see) at Toyota.

In the early stages of the TPS, the jishuken concept began with kanban. Today however, it is more frequently used in the context of study groups within the kaizen itself. Many facilities have suggestion systems that allow all employees to apply local and small daily improvements to their process. Jishuken though, focuses on bigger projects driven by mangers that are linked to business goals.


Like many TPS activities, Jishuken has both a learning goal and a productivity goal. It’s a method of gathering managers for problem solving in the production process and continuous improvement. Maybe more importantly though, is it can also help managers continue to improve their ability to coach and teach TPS problem-solving to others.

Jishuken is also a culture building tool. It helps construct a culture that identifies problems areas at the ground level and prepares a plan with a self analysis of the system. It also helps to promote interaction of operational staff and managerial staff to complete the process.

 Jishuken in Action

Many organizations have their variations of Lean procedures and concepts, but when you’re getting started it’s always best to look at the top. According to Mike Daprile, retired vice president of manufacturing for Toyota Motor, jishuken is applied to study line balance, identify machine issues, inefficiencies and other causes of waste.

Here’s how they do it according to Daprile:

  1. Select an area that needs improvement.
  2. Develop a team consisting of a lead person and personnel from various departments, including engineering, quality and production.
  3. Assign each team member a plant function to monitor.
  4. Team members ask questions for each task. For instance, in the case of changeovers, the team member might want to ask: How many changeovers are occurring, how many should occur in a normal day, and was maintenance needed to complete the changeover?
  5. The team leader tracks any issues on a jishuken worksheet that identifies what the problem is, what countermeasures should be taken, who is responsible for making the changes, and the date.
  6. The team leader meets with operators to discuss their findings and the changes implemented.
  7. Post the results in the general area, track the status of the changes, and continue to follow up with the countermeasures through the supervisor and the checklist.

Free 5S guide and poster










1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

Leader Standard Work

3 min read

At the core of any Lean philosophy is the pursuit and sustainment of continual improvement. However, this continues to be a struggle for many Lean transformations as they attempt to implement these processes into their culture. Part of the problem, lies in the hands of the leaders that attempt to push new agendas into their organization. Leaders can make or break a Lean culture. With the help of Leader Standard Work (LSW) the make, is far more a reality than the break.

Leader Standard WorkLeader Standard Work requires a whole new mindset in your leader’s routines. It takes the leader from the boss’s chair to the coaches corner, promoting a show, not tell type of attitude. When leaders mimic the behavior they wish to see, it gives everyone else an example that they can use to establish their own actions for best practices.

The beauty of LSW is that it fits perfectly into Lean and especially Kaizen concepts, instilling a sense of ownership, accountability, empowerment and responsibility throughout the entire organization. This mentality is the glue in many organizations that holds the culture together and promotes an attitude that believes continuous improvement is possible at all times.


To standardize work methods is the the sum of all the good ways we have discovered up to present. It therefore becomes the standard. Today’s standardization is the necessary foundation on which tomorrow’s improvement will be based. If you think of standards as confining, then progress stops.

Henry Ford

Leader Standard Work

Leader Standard Work is the repetitive pattern of activities that represent the current least wasteful method of planning and controlling normal business processes. In simplest terms, LSW is a check-list of leadership activities that are performed on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.  Once something becomes repetitive it can become standardized and taught to anyone. A lot of a leader’s standard work will focus on specific activities where the work is being done (Gemba), but it is also important to set aside time in your routine for continual improvement as well.

The key is the repetition. Doing this daily will not only confirm that work is being done correctly, but also ensure that everyone is being held accountable for working up to standard, including leaders. The idea sounds simple enough, but it can be quite the task to implement.


Components of LSW

1. Auditing:

  • Your front line is the start of your standard work tasks. The supervisor starts a LSW cycle by verifying direct reports from the front line.
  • Supervisors then can report to their superior or director. The director’s standard work entails the verification of work tasks completed by the supervisor. From there, the director is able to report back to their superior or administrator.
  • The administrator reports to their superior and so on.
  •  This creates an interlocking layer of accountability, laying a foundation for sustainability.

2. Expectations

  • Define outcome metrics that indicate the department is achieving success.
  • Assign the characteristics and attributes to a process that help achieve the desired outcomes for success.
  • Define the behaviors that help achieve those outcomes.
  • Have controls in place to ensure the desired behaviors are present every day, in every situation.
  • Determine how you as a leader will verify these expectations are being met.

3. Tasks

Three categories of leadership tasks include:

  1. Scheduled tasks- puts the appropriate audits in place to verify disciplined adherence to the process
  2. Unscheduled but predictable tasks- ensures adherence to service level targets
  3. Unscheduled and unpredictable tasks- ensures adherence to service level targets and does not interrupt already scheduled tasks.

 Moving Forward

Implementing Leader Standard Work requires a culture change within the culture. It truly takes dedication and true leadership skills to be successful at it. However, the end result is in many cases is the key to sustaining other Lean methods that lack the checks and balances that LSW provides.

Free Kaizen Guide

Free Kaizen Guide

Once you have laid groundwork and developed the right mindset, the rest will fall into place. Established standardized routines keep goals in focus and more obtainable than before, especially with the use of visual tools to remind you. The use of visual tools to highlight the required minimum standard of work will enhance motivation. When everyone is able to see the standardized tasks, accountability becomes that much more important.

Photo-4404744 or 2440227

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

Waste 101

4 min read

No More Waste

All things aside, waste reduction is the main ingredient to lean practices. No matter how you break it down if you can’t identify and evaluate waste properly, you can’t establish a platform to improve upon. It’s a continuous process to target waste and eliminate non-value-adding value, but this ultimately how you increase the value of your goods and services.

Lean implementers often turn to one of the now several waste categories to help separate the specific targets that fit in their facility. Several mnemonics have been used like TIMWOOD and NOW TIME, but these only work if you understand what “Transportation” waste is and how you go about identifying it. There are essentially seven wastes (muda) that were originally laid out by the father of the Toyota Production System; Taiichi Ohno.

There has since been various interpretations and addition to the categories, but the seven original waste categories are what get the attention of most organizations as they establish their lean culture. Other than the fact that they fit into easy to remember mnemonics, how much do we really know about each category? Lets break them down individually.

The Seven Deadly Wastes of Lean


The waste of transportation focuses on the actual transporting of parts and materials around your facility. This could be done with a forklift, a truck or any piece of equipment used to maneuver product around the facility. This particular waste is an ineffective use of both time and energy that has the potential to cause damage to your products and people. Causes of transportation waste can be linked to overproduction, large batches and a poor layout of the facility.

You can also think of it as any unnecessary movement of goods, people, or equipment between processes. Other causes of transportation waste can be attributed to a lack of understanding of the actual process flow and equipment being spaced out too far.


The waste of inventory can be concentrated on all of that Work in Progress (WIP) and stock that is sitting around costing you money. This waste is addressed in the lean principle Just in Time, producing what they want when they want it, rather than have an overflowing warehouse full of product. Anytime you have more inventory than needed for the job, you have inventory waste.

Causes of unnecessary inventory can be attributed to the following

  • Large safety stocks
  • Unbalanced workloads
  • Suppliers providing raw materials
  • The complexity of the product

waste of motionMOTION

The unnecessary motion or movement of goods, people or equipment within the process is waste motion. This is different than transportation because this occurs during the process rather than between the process. Think of it as any motion of a person and or equipment that does no add value to the product or service. When you observe someone at work and you see them having to constantly move awkwardly or extend their body to perform a task, that is waste!

Causes of wasteful motion:

  • Poor workstation design-having to constantly bend, stretch or maneuver around to complete a normal task
  • Poor workplace organization
  • Large batch sizes
  • Poor design methods that require transferring of one hand to the other


This waste is exactly what it sounds like– waiting. Whether you waiting around for a co-worker, machine, product or information, the fact is you’re waiting. In some instances the majority of your day or even goods for that matter are spent waiting. Every time you can eliminate waiting time from your day, you are increasing your efficiency level.

Some causes of waiting waste are:

  • Unbalanced workload
  • Unplanned maintenance
  • Extended set-up times
  • Upstream quality issues


This waste occurs anytime more work is done on a particular item than is required by the consumer. If your not adding value in the customers’ perspective then your just creating waste. This could also include using components that are more complex, expensive to operate, higher quality and/or are just simply not necessary to the process.

Some basic causes to over-processing are:

  • Undefined customer requirements
  • Poor communication
  • Changes in product without changes in the process
  • Redundant approval process
  • Simply having to provide more information than needed


This category of waste is also pretty self explanatory. It occurs anytime more product is produced than is required at the time by the customer or before the customer needs it, causing it to sit around and collect dust. Inventory costs money to make, costs money to store, costs money to transport. These costs can begin to add up quickly if over-production continues to be an issue in your facility. Many organizations have adopted the Just In Time Lean principle to combat over-production issues and had a big success in doing so.

Other causes of over-production:


This particular category of waste has the potential to be the most expensive if your not on top of it. The cost of the defect is only a small part of the overall cost. The product or service has to be reworked, often times at the site of the customer depending on the issue, you have extra paperwork to fill out and then of course the time it takes to figure out how to not have it happen again. You’ve lost time it took to originally produce the good, now you have to use time you could’ve spent on new product, fixing and brainstorming replacements. Some estimate that it takes ten times more capital to replace or fix a defective product than it did to originally produce it in the first place.

Causes that lead to defect waste:

  • Poor process control
  • Bad quality control
  • Inefficient maintenance process
  • Poor training methods
  • Not understanding customer needs
Free Kaizen Guide

Free Kaizen Guide








1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

Gemba 101

3 min read

Gemba (sometimes referred to as genba) has become one of the most commonly used words in the lean vocabulary, right up there with Kaizen and 5S. The gemba 101adoption of Gemba principles into your lean culture has the potential to add numerous benefits to your continuous improvement. It’s recent rise in lean fame has come with some confusion and misinterpretation as well. As with any lean principle, it is important to fully understand the term and procedures that go along with it. That way when someone says “I’m going to the gemba,” everyone knows exactly what they mean.


What is Gemba?

The term gemba means “the real place.” It’s purpose is to get you to the exact location where action is taking place. This could be your factory floor or your kids soccer game, the point is you are at the scene of the action and can have a first hand account of the action taking place. It can also be referred to as the place where value is created. However, it takes a lot more than a good set of eyes to incorporate gemba into your lean strategies.

The gemba approach should always include the following:

  • The observer must have a rooted curiosity in the action to understand what is really going on. If you just assume or develop opinions based off what you’ve heard then the value is lost from the gemba. You must have a strong desire to know what is going on.
  •  Have a direct observation of how the work is performed. To understand the gemba, you have to be in the gemba. The goal of gemba is to fully understand the gemba behaviors and the current reality of the situation more clearly, from a direct observation.
  • Respect others and strengthen the culture. Gemba requires direct interaction with employees as they work. This can easily cause tension between upper management and employees if the employee feels uneasy about being observed if done incorrectly. However, to get the full value of gemba one must engage themselves with the employee directly while they work, not from a distance. Keeping an equal respect for everyone should be commonsense, especially in the gemba.

Going to the Gemba

Once you understand the gemba approach then you can move on to the actual process. The following steps will help you along your gemba path to success and make going to the gemba one of the most powerful lean tools in your tool box.

1. Know your purpose: If you don’t know why you’re there, then there’s no point in being there. Wondering around without a purpose is counter-productive and provides no benefit to your organization. It should also be noted and clear that gemba is NOT Management by Walking Around (MBWA). The 1980’s concept lacks the principles and purpose that gemba offers.

  • Before you go to the gemba ask yourself these questions: Why am I going to observe? What am I trying to learn? When you have the answers, you’re ready for the gemba.

2. Know your gemba: Each gemba is unique in its own way and should not be categorized into a single unit. Remember, a gemba is the exact location of an activity as it is performed that you wish to study. Chances are you have several different points of action in your organization and they should be approached as such.

3. Observe the framework: Good observation skills are hard to come by, but essential to the gemba. Observers often overlook a step or a part of the process that will hinder the improvement process later as they review their notes. It is important to take everything in all the components that make up the gemba from the equipment, to the people, to the material. A good observer is able to analyze everything as individual components, but also understand how they work together as part of the flow of operations.

4. Validate: Never assume that what you see is the actual representation of reality. There are things that you can’t see, like the thought process of the worker as he overcomes a specific challenge in the process. To get the full value of your observation you have to validate your conclusions with the person you observed. This opens up the dialogue and is a way to ensure both parties have a good grip on the current reality.

Free Kaizen Guide

As the lean movement continues to grow so will the ways we try to innovate and improve the process. The important thing is to not get ahead of yourself. It might all be about continuous improvement and eliminating waste, but if you haven’t mastered one step before going to the next, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

Gemba embraces the skills of your entire organization. It’s a powerful culture building component of lean that can have a tremendous impact on your improvement process –when done correctly.








1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

A Kaizen Story

3 min read

When a large manufacturing plant in Iowa decided to implement Kaizen into their facilities they had plenty of questions and hurdles to overcome. The organization, which produces agricultural and construction-related equipment saw the continuous improvement process known as Kaizen as a means to improve business. The process for them didn’t come easy and creating a sustainable process became a challenge, but a Kaizen story like any story, is always good to review.

a kaizen story

The following information was collected by an independent survey firm hired by the company to obtain honest feedback regarding employee perceptions about their jobs, company policies, practices, programs, the work environment and supervision. Statistically significant differences were calculated at the 95 percent confidence level. These are the conclusions drawn from their study.


A Kaizen Story

  • Positive feelings about employee involvement directly correlated to the number of Kaizen events employees had participated in. In fact the results showed it was statistically more significant as the number of events increased. Similar types of results were documented regarding employees’ feelings toward supervision, career advancement opportunities, and job satisfaction. The same was true regarding their attitude toward the entire Kaizen initiative.
  • Keep Calm And Kaizen On Employees who participated in more Kaizen events felt their supervisor did a better job of communicating.
  • Employees who participated in more Kaizen events felt they had better opportunities to share their views with the team.
  • Employees who participated in more Kaizen events felt Kaizen was going to be a permanent part of the way the company operates.
  • There were a significant number of employees who felt that after a Kaizen team finished it’s work there was not adequate follow-up to make sure that recommended changes were maintained and implemented successfully.
  • Employees who participated in more Kaizen events felt that the Kaizen initiative improved the efficiency of operations.
  • Employees who participated in more Kaizen events viewed the Kaizen initiative as necessary to ensure competitiveness.
  • Only 50 to 60 percent off the employees felt they were receiving adequate feedback regarding customer satisfaction with the work they performed. There was a direct correlation between how positive employees felt and the number of Kaizen events they had participated in. The same was true about how positive they felt about the future.
  • An overwhelming majority of all employees expressed a belief that the company is socially responsible in the community and to the environment.
  • Employees who participated in more Kaizen events showed a statistically significant difference in positive response to how satisfied they were to be working at the company.
  • A majority of the employees said the company was a good place to work and that they were proud to be associated with the company. Employees who participated in more Kaizen events felt more positive about these two areas than those who only had participated in zero to three Kaizen events.
  • Employees who participated in more Kaizen events showed a significant difference in how positive they felt about whether their job offers opportunity to use their abilities.
  • The majority of employees, regardless of their Kaizen experience, felt their job was really worthwhile and gave them a sense of personal accomplishment. They also viewed their jobs as important to the company.

The company’s willingness to use the continuous improvements methods of Kaizen to drive efficiency, standardize work, organization, and improvement by continually reevaluating processes and eliminating waste from those processes proved to be the right decision. The results from this study allow the outsider to see a kaizen story from inside the minds of the people eager to make it work.

The bottom-line is that employees who have participated in more Kaizen events generally feel more positive about their jobs and about their company, while feeling apart of something that was beneficial to all. Which in the end is a key factor in sustaining your continuous improvement process. When employees are disengaged their willingness to participate in something is drastically reduced.

Free Kaizen Guide

Free Kaizen Guide

Portions of this post where gathered from a case study done by Terry Butler and Gail Snyder from The Performance Management Magazine.












1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

Toyota Donates What Money Couldn’t Buy: Efficiency

3 min read

The Food Bank For New York City is one of the country’s largest food banks. Their effort to reach the nearly 2.6 million New Yorkers who experience difficulty affording food does not go unnoticed. Some of the biggest corporate names have reached out to financially support the Food Bank including Bank of America, Disney, FedEx, the Yankees and many more, but Toyota decided to take another route. Instead of cash, Toyota donates what money couldn’t buy: efficiency.

Kaizen in Action

Rather than sign over a big check to the Food Bank, Toyota decided to step in and get their hands dirty. They offered up something that few in the food industry have ever heard of –Kaizen. The Food Bank was a little hesitant at first with the Toyota offer. But after presenting the Food Bank with the details of kaizen, the Food Bank for New York City was more than happy to hear what Toyota could do for them.

Kaizen is the Japanese term for continuous improvement which Toyota has mastered and made world famous in the manufacturing industry. The idea behind continual small improvements is that they eventually add up to larger benefits for both the company and the customer.The primary objective is to remove waste in all areas, while ensuring quality and safety at the same time. The end result — improved efficiency.

They make cars; I run a kitchen, this won’t work — Daryl Foriest, director of distribution at the Food Bank in Harlem, to the New York Times

The Food Bank helps provide 400,000 free meals a day for New Yorkers and the engineers from Toyota were determined to help make the process more efficient. Long lines of hungry people waiting for their next meal to the lengthy processing times for workers to fill food boxes was the target of Toyota’s attack when they first assessed the Food Bank’s operations.


Toyota Donates What Money Couldn’t Buy: Efficiency

The aftermath of the Toyota Production System Support Center (TSSC) team’s work:

  • Soup kitchen in Harlem- The average wait time for an individual to receive a meal in this particular kitchen was close to 90 minutes. After the TSSC team revised the kitchen and the process in which the customers were fed, the wait time was down to 18 minutes!
  • Staten Island Food Pantry- The average time it took the workers there to fill a bag of food for donation was 11 minutes. After the TSSC team revised the process the workers were using the bags were filled on an average of 6 minutes!
  • Warehouse in Brushwick, Brooklyn- Volunteers worked long hard days to fill boxes of food and supplies for the victims of Hurricane Sandy. The average time it took before TSSC was 3 minutes, after  11 seconds!

The Toyota Difference

The Harlem Kitchen was by far the most significant number the TSSC team was able to reduce. The kitchen could hold up to 50 people at a time and would start dinner at 4 p.m. daily. Once all the chairs were full inside, a line would then start to form outside. When 10 chairs would open up, the staff would send in the next ten customers to eat. Again, the average wait time — 90 minutes!

“Toyota has revolutionized the way we serve our community” –Margarete Purvis, chief executive and president of the Food Bank to the The New York Times

Toyota made three big changes. The first was to eliminate the 10-at-a-time system. They allowed diners to come in one by one once a chair opened up for them. The second, was to allow diners to wait inside in a new waiting area where they would be closer to the food trays. Finally, a staff member was assigned to the floor to spot an empty seat, as it would open up they would call the next in line out. New average wait time –18 minutes!

 Meals Per Hour

Toyota wasn’t done with the Food Bank yet. The company announced its Meals Per Hour campaign which was promoted through the use of a short documentary film (shown at the bottom). The company would donate one meal for every view the video received, up to 250,000. It didn’t take long for the film to go viral though. Shortly after release the video surpassed the original target goal and Toyota decided they could still do more.

The auto maker decided to step up and donate an additional one million meals in addition to the 250,000 meals they had already donated. The film currently has 1,014,408 views at this time.

Since 1992, TSSC has been helping companies and organizations around the country increase efficiencies, streamline processes, and better serve their customers with the Toyota Production System. They have recently launched a national campaign to support up to 20 community and non-profit organizations in using the TPS to help improve their operations, extend their reach and increase their impact.

Free Kaizen Guide

Free Kaizen Guide