What is Kaizen?

Kaizen is a Japanese term that is translated to mean “change for the good.” Kaizen is both a methodology and philosophy that can be implemented in manufacturing facilities, warehouses, and production lines. It originated in Japan in the 1950s becoming a crucial part of the Toyota Production System. Kaizen often makes a noticeable impact on a workplace and the bottom line, and it does so by noticing and identifying small areas of improvement and implementing incremental changes. The practice of Kaizen involves employees from every level and is true practice of innovation. It is a group effort that believes taking small steps many times will have long-term and long-lasting solutions.

Continuous improvement is at the core of Kaizen. If workers are trained to spot smaller issues on a day-to-day basis, a solution can be put in place almost right away, Kaizen also promotes the idea of everyone in the workplace working together to find resolutions and to problem solve. By talking to the “experts”, those working on the frontline of production, managers and supervisors can have a better understanding of what’s going on in the manufacturing process.

Lean manufacturing and Kaizen often go hand in hand. As Lean aims to eliminate wastes in the workplace, Kaizen is a methodology that results in reduced wastes. By finding those small areas of improvement that can often be overlooked and making improvements, little by little time, money, and energy will be saved. While these small changes here and there may not seem extremely important, they do add up to major improvements and noticeable results.

Kaizen can be carried out both in daily practices and in Kaizen events. Both activities are meant to involve workers from all levels and address the root cause with small, incremental changes. Kaizen uses specific tools to achieve this including quality circles, Gemba walks, Five Whys, 5S, and many more to ensure all voices are heard and the root cause can be identified. Kaizen activities and implementations in the Kaizen process are primarily done so through the Plan > Do > Check > Act cycle. This cycle encourages continuous improvement and that changes, no matter how small they are, will be assessed for impact.


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