Kaizen is a restless state of constant questioning, re-appraisal and incremental improvements, however tiny. One of the principles used in Kaizen is “1% improvement“ - the idea of looking for and acting on tinyimprovement possibilities- every day.
Kaizen means 'gradual, unending improvement, doing little things better'
is a combination of two Japanese words,
- meaning change and
- meaning good.
thus meanschange for the better. Kaizen is applicable to any area from an individual’s personal life to a complex business process.In a work environment Kaizen is understood as gradual, orderly and continuous improvement involving minimalinvestment.
Kaizen is a restless state of constant questioning, re-appraisal and incremental improvements, however tiny. One of the principles used in Kaizen is “1% improvement” - the idea of looking for and acting on tiny improvement possibilities- every day.
Kaizen’s role in business:
Two aspects should necessarily be part of an initiative for it to be termed as Kaizen. One is improvement and the other itshould be ongoing. Any improvement on its own cannot be termed as Kaizen. For instance, a one time new idea thatrevolutionised a business cannot be termed as Kaizen. This is because though the idea brought about an improvement, itwas a one -time affair. Similarly, a process may be ongoing, but it cannot be called Kaizen if it is not improving. Kaizenshould contain both the aspects of ongoing improvement.Maintenance, innovation and kaizen are the three functions that should occur simultaneously in any organisation.Maintenance refers to the smooth functioning of the current state, setting up procedures and implementing standards.Usually, lower level personnel are responsible for maintenance.Innovations are breakthrough activities such as introducing new technologies, new machines and equipment, or R&Dbreakthroughs.Kaizen is an intermittent function involving small steps but with continuous betterment. Lower/middle management andworkers with encouragement and direction from the top management should implement it.
The history of Kaizen dates back to the 1950s when Toyota decided to introduce quality checks within its processes. Qualitywas inspected at every stage of the production process instead of checking for defects in the finished product. Thedeviations identified were rectified in the process stage itself. This led to making continuous improvement in the smalldetails of a process, which later came to be known as Kaizen. Taiichi Ohno the man behind the Toyota Production Systemenvisioned this concept.The Kaizen philosophy is one of the drivers behind the Japanese quality. Throughout the later half of the last century theJapanese applied Kaizen principles in their workplace. They developed better processes and innovative products andbecame leaders in the industrial world.Up until the 80’s the rest of the world was left guessing about the real reason behind the Japanese success. It was a booktitled, ‘Kaizen-The key to Japanese Competitive Success’ written by a Japanese named Maasaki Imai that introducedKaizen to the rest of the world. Soon top-notch American and European companies like Ford, AT&T, Siemens, Phillips andGeneral Motors began applying Kaizen.
Concept > Welcome To The Shop Floor
Maasaki Imai recommends that managers go down to the Gemba (Japanese for shop floor) more often to observe thenitty-gritty of the production processes. Hands-on experience is what triggers off the grey cells.He says. “The key is to be inquisitive. If I, as a manager, notice a leak in one of the machines I must be able to track downthe problem. I must know that the leak is because of a gap, which has been caused by the vibrating action of the machine.And that the vibration has caused two specific screws to loosen and cause the gap.” After putting forth the case, hecontinues, “The immediate solution could be in tightening those two screws every morning before starting the machine.Thus, avoiding the possibility of a leak.” The next step would be to find a more long-term solution. Sounds simple. Well,because it is. That is Gemba Kaizen.