Kaizen (改善, jap. Kai Change, zen for the better), change for the better is a Japanese word for a philosophy of life and work, at the heart of which is the pursuit of continuous and endless improvement.
Improvements are made with the gradual and precise refinement or optimization of a product or process. For the first time, the term kaizen was used in many Japanese companies during the rebuilding of the Japanese industry after World War II, most commonly known as part of the manufacturing practice known as the Toyota Road.
What is Kaizen methodology
In Western countries, this concept has been adopted in industry and developed as a management system called the “Process of continuous improvement of quality”, which aims to improve production quality and reduce costs. Read more: What is Kanban methodology
Beginning of the development of the Kaisen system
After the devastating World War II for Japan, the US occupation forces introduced new laws for workers to provide more favorable conditions for them.
The Toyota company, which was also under very difficult conditions at the time, was developing, together with the unions, a variant of employer-employee relations, which today is the basis for their relationship in the automotive industry. In doing so, workers receive a lifetime guarantee for a job and remuneration, which is related to the years of service and profit of the company.
Under these conditions, the workforce in the company becomes a more significant investment than the machines for the company. Unlike machines that can be scrapped, human capital has to carry a company profit for about 40 years.
This requires continuous improvement in the workforce’s capacity to make full use of their knowledge, experience, and ability to work during this period.
Read the Kaizen: 20 Keys to Workplace Improvement explained with examples article
Five central pillars of Kaisen
Process orientation means that the process needs to be documented and improved. It is essential to optimize profits. This is possible with great customer satisfaction, since winning customers is more expensive than retaining them. The use of process improvement methods, as in Kaisen, has a positive effect on the renewal processes.
Kaisen divides clients into internal and external. The external customers are the end-users, and the internal customer is in the enterprise itself, which processes the production further. To remedy the problems and give better results, customer consultations are carried out.
Continuous total quality control is carried out, with continuous measurement of quality by one measuring method. Quality data and control methods shall be described and established with appropriate quality standards.
Orientation to criticism
Criticism is seen in Kaisen as a chance for continuous improvement. Therefore, criticism is not only allowed and desired. Each contributor is challenged to make suggestions for improvement. Management must adopt them constructively and implement them as widely as possible. Proposals are scrutinized for the benefit they carry and are evaluated so that they can be accepted in the enterprise processes with a positive overall assessment. A constant cycle of planning, action, control, and improvement is obtained.
Used work tools
The 5S rules – the rules are mainly aimed at the manufacturing workplace, its organization and
7M Check (Ishikawa Diagram): Checking the seven important factors namely human, machine, material, method, environment, control, and measurability (measurability)