The word Kaizen is often referenced when talking about Lean Manufacturing. Kaizen is a combination of two Japanese words: ‘Kai’ meaning change and ‘Zen’ meaning good. Kaizen combines these words to express the idea that big changes come from many small changes over a period of time. For manufacturers, business process improvement and an increase in profit is the result of many small changes accumulated over time.
Kaizen is continuous improvement based upon various, sound principles such as:
● Good processes equals good results.
● Speak with data, manage by facts.
● Perform root cause analysis.
● Work as a team.
● Kaizen is everybody’s business.
Kaizen and Employee Buy-In
When it comes to Kaizen, continuous quality improvement achieves major change over time because changes are driven by employee input. When employees are empowered to participate in changing their environment, results are more sustainable. Kaizen uses the Japanese logic of bringing improvement internally from within the workplace. This concept first appeared in Masaaki Imai’s book “Kaizen: The Key to Japanese Success” written in 1996.
One of the many tools under the umbrella of Lean manufacturing, Kaizen has been successful in helping manufacturers improve. While there are many Lean tools that are used to describe manufacturing process improvement, each technique can produce different outcomes. Understanding those differences is important when trying to understand what process improvement plan is best for your company. You can read more about various Lean tools by visiting the Lean Business Solutions section of our website.
Kaizen Events in Manufacturing
In the manufacturing world, Kaizen events are scheduled to help companies identify and implement changes. These events are goal driven, typically last for one week, and the goals are specific and measureable. Events include a facilitator and team members from support areas in the company, along with management personnel. Kaizen events are most successful when they are part of a larger overall program of continuous improvement. Long-term success can only be realized if the event is supported and understood by all involved. Otherwise, change is short-lived and employees revert back to the “old” way of doing things.
Kaizen relies on:
● Letting go of past ideas.
● Focusing on why you can improve something, not on why it can’t be done.
● Questioning current practices.
● Seeking improvement instead of perfecting.
● Leveraging wisdom when faced with hardship.
● Asking "WHY?" multiple times and seeking the root causes of problems.
● Seeking the wisdom of ten people rather than the knowledge of one.
The benefits of Kaizen for Michigan Manufacturers are numerous. Increases in productivity and quality are often enjoyed while lowering costs and decreasing delivery time. Employees benefit from Kaizen as well, experiencing fewer accidents on the job, improved morale and overall improved job satisfaction.
Lower employee turnover is a huge boost to productivity and efficiency. Customers take notice of the little changes, which eventually create big improvements leading to increased customer satisfaction.
If you are interested in conducting a Kaizen event at your company, contact the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center (MMTC) at 888.414.6682 or click here.
Since 1991, MMTC has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses compete and grow. Through personalized services fitted to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.mmtc.org.