Lean Manufacturing is a highly-effective Japanese way or method of doing things. It can be described as a continuous or repetitive improvement system. It is a system whereby one continuously improves or continuously tries to improve ways of doing a particular task or a particular job.
Lean Manufacturing is a system which was developed by the Japanese after WWII and is now used all over the world. It is a system that revolves around the process of continuously improving when it comes to quality, processes, technology, productivity, safety, company culture, work force attributes, work force attitude and leadership.
This system involves improving in all areas of your business and continuously striving to do things better, quicker and more efficiently. In this system, you must try to do your best always and to give your best in everything you do.
Kaizen is a Lean Manufacturing philosophy. Kaizen simply means "continuous improvement" and it is a word which is derived from the Japanese words “kai” and "zen". Kai means to fix, correct, improve or change and the word zen simply means good. So when you put these words together the direct meaning you get is, change good or correct good. This Japanese system does not target or affect a certain section of the work force nor does it target management only, it is designed to affect each and every aspect and area of the company. So from the top level management right down to the lowest paid employee, it must be implemented. It is good for lean manufacturing because it affects everyone. Every employee must get involved and practice this philosophy. If everyone works to implement Kaizen, then the company will continuously improve itself and it will gradually become better in everything it does.
Since Kaizen does not target or relate to a certain area or a certain department of the company it is very effective. In this system everyone is encouraged to participate in the long-term and day-to-day improvements of the company as well as their work station or work area. Employees are asked to come up with suggestions and ways to improve the company structure, company activities and any other areas where improvements can be made. Suggestions and ideas do not have to be big, they can be small and they can be about anything. Employees are encouraged to do this on a regular basis so that a culture of continuous improvement is created.
Kaizen is not a "process" that is not done twice a week or twice a month, but rather is done on a continuous basis. This system is very effective in the Lean manufacturing business. Management is often too busy to worry about things that might appear small and insignificant to them, but if everyone is involved then all aspects that affect day-to-day operations of the company and its employees will be addressed. Two large, successful companies that use Kaizen include Toyota and Canon. Each year, they have well over 10,000 suggestions and improvements made.