The Japanese word “kaizen” means simply “improvement”. Kaizen, or rapid improvement processes, is considered to be the “building block” of all continuous improvement methods. Kaizen focuses on eliminating waste, improving productivity, and achieving sustained continual improvement in targeted activities and processes of an organization.
Kaizen concentrates at improving the process rather than achieving certain results.
While Kaizen usually delivers small improvements, the culture of continual small improvements and standardization yields large results in the form of compound productivity improvement. Kaizen methodology includes making changes and monitoring results, then adjusting. Large-scale pre-planning and extensive project scheduling are replaced by smaller experiments, which can be rapidly adapted as new improvements are suggested.
Kaizen often starts by asking the 5 “whys”. For example:
- Why did the machine stop?
There was an overload, and the fuse blew.
- Why was there an overload?
The bearing was not sufficiently lubricated.
- Why was it not lubricated sufficiently?
The lubrication pump was not pumping sufficiently.
- Why was it not pumping sufficiently?
The shaft of the pump was worn and rattling.
- Why was the shaft worn out?
There was no strainer attached, and metal scrap got in.
You can see that this process helps to eliminate identifying a problem and then implementing the first solution that comes to mind (and is usually a solution that makes things worse rather than better.
Kaizen is not hard to introduce into a work environment or into your activites outside of work. Many times, however, Kaizen is introduced at an organization, many improvments are suggested, some are implemented, and then the initiative dies out. This is largely due to the fact that, too often, managers are not willing to put in the extra effort of Kaizen, or do not want to give up “control” over the employees.
If you would like to hear some examples of Kaizen at work, please email me and I can help point you in the right direction