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Kaizen is a Japanese term meaning “good change.” By definition, it is the relentless quest for a better way, the daily pursuit of perfection. Kaizen is a way of thinking and seeing, of always being alert to the opportunity to make changes for improvement.

A Kaizen, or Kaizen event, is a focused approach to improve a process quickly by eliminating waste wherever possible. The purpose is to rapidly make improvements to a specific product, process or area of business, resulting in incremental changes that, over time, yield larger cumulative results within your organization.

Benefits of Applying Kaizen and Lean Thinking

This continuous improvement methodology combines Lean manufacturing tools with team empowerment, brainstorming and problem solving. Typical benefits of applying Kaizen include:

  • Reduction in lead time
  • Increase in productivity and capacity
  • Reduction in inventory
  • Improvements in quality
  • Better use of space

Kaizen events are most successful when led by a facilitator and conducted by cross-functional teams to implement process improvements. Our Lean consultants help companies achieve tangible, measurable changes through Kaizen events.

Kaizen events create a learning atmosphere involving both management leadership and its workforce. Kaizen works best when a plan-do check-act cycle is used and there is a focus on cost, quality and delivery. Performed regularly, Kaizen events help companies maintain quality and establish a culture of always being on the lookout for areas of improvement. A key element of Kaizen events is that it teaches the team to “speak with data” in order to track measurable improvements.

Kaizen Event Preparation

Following the right process for Kaizen events ensures their effectiveness. This involves developing a team charter and selecting team members. In our Kaizen kit, we include a readiness checklist to complete. We also design a customized workshop for your organization with a training plan. We work with you to create a communications plan for everyone involved – management, team members, other staff and workforce – that informs them of their role and the need for their support.

Basic Rules for Kaizen Events

A Kaizen event often includes a Gemba walk. Gemba is a Japanese term meaning the “real place” or “where the action is” and in manufacturing, that’s usually the production floor. In a Gemba walk, team members are asked to think differently about what is in front of them, learning to see what is not there and possible improvements to be made.

There are 10 basic rules for conducting a Gemba Kaizen:

    1. Discard conventional ideas
    2. Think of how to do it (not why it cannot be done)
    3. Do not make excuses; question current practices
    4. Do not seek perfection, just do it now
    5. Correct mistakes immediately
    6. Spend wisdom, not money for Kaizen
    7. Wisdom emerges in adversity
    8. Seek root cause, ask ‘Why?’ 5 times
    9. Seek wisdom of 10 rather than knowledge of 1
    10. Kaizen ideas are infinite

By facilitating a Kaizen using a team-based approach to process improvement, you will increase the effectiveness of organizational improvement initiatives and develop an understanding of your workforce reactions to change and transition.

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