There are a number of methodologies and tools in use for automating and improving business processes. One we’d like to discuss here is called Kaizen.
The Kaizen concept originated in Japan, born out of necessity to recover from the devastating effects following WWII. The premise behind Kaizen (taken from the Japanese word for improvement, change for the better, or continuous improvement) is to always maintain an optimistic view. It brings the entire workforce together– including managers and workers, customers and suppliers–to band as a team to overcome obstacles. Success is accomplished through the process of constantly fixing what doesn’t work and even improving on what does.
Kaizen focuses on key areas of a business’s processes:
- Staff motivation
- The environment
The continuous cycle of Kaizen activity has seven phases:
- Identify an opportunity
- Analyze the process
- Develop an optimal solution
- Implement the solution
- Study the results
- Standardize the solution
- Plan for the future
10 Principles of Kaizen
The Kaizen method follows ten specific principles, which are described below:
- Improve everything continuously.
- Abolish old, traditional concepts.
- Accept no excuses and make things happen.
- Say no to the status quo of implementing new methods and assuming they will work.
- If something is wrong, correct it.
- Empower everyone to take part in problem solving.
- Get information and opinions from multiple people.
- Before making decisions, ask “why” five times to get to the root cause. (5 Why Method)
- Be economical. Save money through small improvements and spend the saved money on further improvements.
- Remember that improvement has no limits. Never stop trying to improve.
How to Implement Kaizen in Manufacturing
One of the most notable features of Kaizen is that big results come from many small changes accumulated over time. That does not mean that Kaizen equals small changes; it’s a compilation of changes accumulated from everyone involved.
The principle behind Kaizen is that the people doing the task are the ones who know most about it and how it can be improved. That’s why the concept requires all employees to get involved in being on the lookout for and suggesting improvements. The manufacturing environment especially benefits from Kaizen, as the processes are more likely to be repetitive.
Implementing Kaizen is typically done through daily practice, regular meetings and soliciting suggestions. Encouraging open dialogue and discussion throughout the workplace is the goal.
Holding regularly scheduled meetings can be a great way for gathering ideas for improvement. These meetings may be more frequent when Kaizen is first implemented, even daily. Management must be on board with the Kaizen concept and assure all workers that they are free to make suggestions without criticism or repercussions. As time goes on, meetings may become less frequent, but it would be a mistake to eliminate them entirely.
All employees should be encouraged to make suggestions for improvement. Some people will be reluctant to verbally discuss them in meetings in front of everyone, so other methods may be necessary. Having suggestion boxes conveniently placed can be one solution. Employees should be constantly encouraged to make suggestions and rewarded appropriately if their suggestion is approved and implemented.
Learn More about How Kaizen Can Improve Your Manufacturing Processes
Kaizen is a proven process that can streamline systems, reduce task and transition time, and improve work habits, all in small and manageable steps. E3 Consulting can help you set up and implement the Kaizen process for your business process improvement.
You may also download our free e-book, 6 Steps to Higher Profits, written specifically for manufacturing, distribution and professional services companies.