The Improvement Tool – Kaizen

What is Kaizen?

It is a Japanese word that translates into “change for the better” or “improvement”. Kaizen was first implemented in several Japanese manufacturing businesses after the Second World War. The term was made famous in Masaaki Imai‘s book “Kaizen: The Key to Japan’s Competitive Success”. It has since spread throughout the world and is now being implemented in many businesses. Kaizen applies to a philosophy that focuses upon continuous improvement of processes across all area of business and industry types. Kaizen aims to eliminate waste and what started as a manufacture improvement tool has spread across into the healthcare, purchasing, insurance, banking and logistics industries.

How to Use Kaizen as an Improvement Tool

The meaning of the word is to change for the better by finding and eliminating all forms of waste (Muda) in a given business process. The type of waste that can be looked for are called the “Seven Wastes” which identify the resources which are commonly wasted:

T Transportation
I Inventory
M Motion
W Wait
O Over-processing
O Over-production
D Defect

Or simply the 7 wastes is TIMWOOD. As a side note these seven waste were originally identified by Toyota’s Chief Engineer, Taiichi Ohno as part of the Toyota Production System

To conduct a successful kaizen implementation requires “the participation of workers in the improvement.” In a kaizen team we usually have people from all levels of a business participate from the Owner down to production, as well as external support.

With the team selected the time frame for the event can be define, from 1 day to 3 day duration. In this time the team will investigate the process and list  all the improvement ideas that can be undertake to improve the process by the elimination of waste. These actions are recorded on a “kaizen newspaper”. This then provides a plan to improve the process.

The aim of kaizen is to repeat the process many times to develop better team interactions that remove wastes to create more productive process. From this type of improvement process the benfit are:

  • Teamwork
  • Company discipline to make change
  • Improved morale
  • Develops suggestions for improvement

We have seen many companies, including Toyota, that use kaizen improvements as the main improvement tool within a workstation or local area, using a small group in improving their own work environment and productivity. Often the group is led through the kaizen process by a direct  line supervisor.

Kaizen Newspaper

Getting on with the job, doing lean every day to delivery improvements that shape a better manufacturing future. View our TXM Lean Minute video on implementing Kaizen.

Robert Chittenden

Author: Robert Chittenden

Robert Chittenden is a Senior Lean Consultant at TXM Lean Solutions