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Kaizen Basic

Kaizen Basic

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Published by: rajaabid on Apr 05, 2009
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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> Introduction
Kaizen means 'gradual, unending improvement, doing little things better' 
-Masaaki Imai. 
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:
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.
Continue the tour:Welcome To The Shop Floor
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.
The above instance highlights opportunities in the manufacturing industry. But what about the fastest growing sector, theservice sector? Can Kaizen be implemented in the service sector too? Yes it can!Service too involves processes be it the front- end facing customers or back -end processing operations. Thus, there is agreat scope for making improvements such as reducing lead times, improving customer service and simplifyingprocedures. Hotel Taj is a classic example.The Taj group is a leading five star hotel chain in South Asia. One of their hotels the Taj Mahal, decided to adopt Kaizen.They divided their 44 middle managers into 11 cross-functional teams and allocated different divisions to observe andsuggest changes. The teams were asked to implement the suggestions within four days. Some of the changes maderesulted in better customer service.For example, customer check-in normally took about 10 minutes but with Kaizen they managed to cut it down to twominutes. They made simple changes like placing the credit card swiper under the counter, which was earlier away from thecounter. They are still in the process of reducing the check-in time to 90 seconds.More than a process change, Kaizen involves a change in attitude beginning from the top management. It also involvesquestioning certain preconceived notions. For instance, in the Taj case, earlier the assumption was that people went to aFive Star restaurant for the experience. Hence the order placed would be processed slowly, giving the customer time tomuse. Some customers though may be in for a quick cup. The restaurant must thus be geared to meet individual needs.Kaizen helps organisations purge red tapism. As organisations have grown, systems and hierarchy have gained anoverpowering importance. Taj plans an entire revamping by introducing a flat organisation structure which it hopes tocomplete the within two years.Unlike some other methodologies, Kaizen is neither complicated nor expensive. It shows that the problems in the companyare not as intractable as they often seem.Kaizen activities whether individual or group, veer round improvement of 
Working environment.
Machine capability i (minimum down time).
Production aids (jigs, fixtures, tools etc.).
Service areas – office work.
Customer service and customer relations.
New products (ideas).
HUMAN individual capabilities.Japanese management believe that managers should spend half their time in making improvements and eliminating waste.Management – oriented Kaizen should result in:
Achieving maximum efficiency and quality.
Minimum inventory.
Eliminating methods that cause fatigue to workmen.
Maximising utilisation of facilities, tools etc to achieve efficiency.
An open management, which allows questioning of the existing systems and processes.
Encouraging learning and providing opportunities for its employees to learn.
Encouraging synergistic teamwork and cooperation.
Striving for and catalysing continuous improvement at all levels.
Systems improvement.Kaizen is about involved leadership that guides people to continuously improve their ability to meet expectations of highquality, low cost, and on-time delivery.
Techniques and Methods > Problem Solving
“You can't do Kaizen just once or twice and expect immediate results. You have to be in it for the long haul.”  
- MaasakiImai
Kaizen is a simple approach that uses common sense and cost effective techniques. The place where Kaizen is performed iscalled Gemba. In Japanese Gemba is the “place where the real action takes place”. It is the work place where the productsare made and the services provided.The two different opportunities in the Gemba where Kaizen can be implemented are in
Problem Solving
and making
Everyday Improvements.
The 5-Gemba principles used in Kaizen problem solving are:
a. Get to the Gemba:
Most managers wish to work on their desks rather than going to the Gemba -the place where the real work gets done.They prefer to get information regarding any problem by means of reports or regular meetings. Being secondary sources of information these are not sufficient for understanding the problem completely. Gemba is the place where one can observe the nuts and bolts of the production process. Hence, the manager should makeit a point to visit the Gemba instead of trying to solve a problem from his desk.
b. Get hands on feel of the Gembutsu:
In Japanese “Gembutsu “ is the specific location where the problem occurs. For example, if the problem is with a particularmachine then the machine becomes the Gembutsu. If the problem is in billing then the billing counter becomes theGembutsu.The manager should personally test and observe the Gembutsu to understand the problem better. He will then be in aposition to suggest and approve better solutions.
c. Take interim measures immediately:
To find an effective solution for any problem, the root cause for the problem has to be identified. This could be timeconsuming. Stopping a machine from running until the root cause is identified may prove costly. Therefore, temporarymeasures should be taken to tide over the present need. Meanwhile, detailed investigation and analysis should continue.
d. Get to the root of the problem:
To prevent recurrence of the problem the root cause has to be identified and addressed. Various methods such as FMEAanalysis or the 5 Whys technique can help identify the root cause of the problem.
e. Standardise the process:
Once the root of the problem is identified, and a solution developed, it should be standardised. The solution should bedocumented and communicated to other personnel likely to face a similar problem. This helps in saving time and improvingproductivity.
Continue the tour:

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