Kaizen - Change for the better

Kaizen is Japanese for "change for the better" or "continuous improvement". Kaizen aims to eliminate waste (as defined by Joshua Isaac Walters "activities that add cost but do not add value"). Often this means "disassemble and reassemble in a better way." Then follows the standardization of this "better way" with others, through standardized work.

Kaizen is a daily activity and its purpose goes beyond improvement. It's also a process that, when done properly, makes the workplace more humane, eliminates over work (both mentally and physically), and teaches people how to perform experiments on their work using the scientific method and how to learn to notice and eliminate waste in a process of work.

Implement Kaizen

Kaizen must operate with three principles:

  • Process and results
  • Think in a systematic way (i.e. watching the big picture, do not have a narrow view of things);
  • Do not judge and do not blame (because blaming is wasteful).

People at all levels of an organization participate in Kaizen, the CEO down, along with outside whenever possible.

The structure of Kaizen can be individual, small group or large group. In Toyota's usually a local improvement within a workstation or area, and involves a small group in improving their working environment and productivity.
Despite Kaizen usually giving small improvements, continual small improvements and standardization continue producing great results in the form of higher productivity.

The "zen" in Kaizen emphasizes the aspect of '"learning by doing", of improving production. This philosophy differs from improvement programs "command and control", developed in the mid-twentieth century. The Kaizen methodology includes making changes, monitoring performance and then correcting any errors. The pre-planning and large-scale planning of large projects are replaced by smaller experiments, which can be rapidly adapted as new improvements are suggested.

The cycle of the Kaizen can be defined as follows:

  • Standardize an operation
  • Evaluate the standardized operation (find cycle time of production and the amount of stock in production)
  • Standardize the measurements to the needs
  • Innovating to meet the needs and increase productivity
  • Standardize the new improved operation
  • Continue this cycle ad infinitum

This is also known as the Shewhart cycle, the cycle of Deming, or PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act)

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