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The process of implementation of improvements

Anna Wronka
The Centre for Improving Process Operations
Department of Logistics Faculty of Management, University of Lodz
Lodz, Poland

Abstract-The paper presents the assumptions of Kaizen
techniques of small improvements, implemented as a part of
Lean Management. Moreover, based on qualitative research it
describes schematically the implementation of improvement
processes with particular emphasis on the potential benefits and
risks generated by the implemented changes.
Key words: Lean Management, Kaizen, continuous
improvement, costs, risk
Today's market realities are more difficult from the point of
view of suppliers of material goods and / or services. More and
more demanding customers, both individual and industrial and
at the same time an intensifying pressure on quality and price
of competing operators, and the economic crisis, are the major
factors forcing continuous changes in management, the
operational management in particular, for economic operators.
Among the innovative, although not new concepts aimed at
improving the broader utility (mainly in terms of quality and
delivery, while reducing costs (called QCD - Quality, Cost,
Delivery), Lean Management tools and support it are worth
noticing, including, in particular, low-cost assumptions, based
on common sense approach to Kaizen.
Understanding the purpose of application of Kaizen,
requires placement this methodology in the management
philosophy of Lean Management, which is a concept oriented
primarily on eliminating waste (any waste, so-called. Muda,
defined as activities that add no value), generated by processes
in all business areas organization. This system, often referred to
in the literature as "slimming or lean management", based on
the paradigm of the continuous improvement, the so-called
value stream, enabling the production and movement of
products at optimum speed specified by the customer. Lean
implementation requires the definition of the five fundamental
principles, namely: the definition of the values defined by the
final customer, identifying the value stream, defined as all
activities (adding and not adding value) required to meet the
needs of customers, ensuring smooth flow throughout the
value-chain cycle production, manufacturing in the pull system,
according to customer orders and continuous improvement. In
addition, it is recommended to reorganize the order of the
processes taking place in the enterprise, from project activities,
through administrative, regulatory, organizational processes,
and those related to human activities. The successful
implementation of Lean principles also requires, perhaps above
all, to build a particular organizational culture which all
employees of a company co-create and improve. This is an
ongoing process that actually forces changes in the mentality of
the people, and determines the transition from the traditional
role of the leaders into mentor - leaders with attitudes
motivating teams to actively engage in the processes of
continuous problem solving. The amount of aspects of the
concept caused that its assumptions are increasingly being used
not only in manufacturing but also in the service sector,
particularly in the public administration (Lean Administration)
and the medical industry (Lean Healthcare). The specificity of
Lean processes determines the selection of certain management
methodologies, realizing the assumptions of the concept. They
differ mainly in approach and level of detail of research
procedure, and procedural tools used depending on the purpose
and scope of the project (so called Lean toolbox). In the
literature, it is stressed more often that Lean brings
organization benefits only if its implementation is based on a
triad: philosophy - the system - tools. Exemplary tools to assist
recognition of Lean are shown in Table 1.
Tool Characteristics
Vizualization A way to improve communication by
illustrating issues related to the work
place, process or employees.
5S A way to visualize the working place,
assuming the care of the workplace,
on the basis of: selection, systematics,
cleaning, standardization and self-
Kanban Production control method, based on
the organization of delivery of
materials, on which there is an actual
requirement. This approach
complements the Just-in-time method.
SMED A tool assuming changeover time
reduction of machines and
simplification of the production
process. It is based on the division of
all ongoing operations, necessary for
changeover time to the unit number to
10 minutes, for internal and external
operations. SMED often runs in four
stages: analysis of the process of
changeover, following internal and
external transformation changeovers
and improvements.
TPM Actions improving the continuous
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maintenance of machinery, by
preventing accidents and downtime.
An indirect measure of the
effectiveness of TPM is the OEE
(Overall Equipment Efficiency) - the
degree of effective use of equipment,
measured as a percentage.
Poka-Yoke Preventing mistakes in processes and
products, through careful design of
the production. It may take the form
of a control system or an alert system
Kaizen Continuous improvement using small
steps, with the involvement of all
employees in the organization.
Source: own study based on: A. Stabrya, Analiza i projektowanie systemw zarzdzania
przedsibiorstwem, Mfiles 2010, s. 399 oraz; www.
Kaizen (from Japanese Kai-good and Zen - change) is a
philosophy aimed at continuous improvement of processes,
particularly those related to the production and management,
using small, systematically implemented changes. According to
Masaki Imai, the main promoter of this method, the Kaizen "is
the most attractive possibility of a permanent, continuous
improvement your own business and the realization that even
small changes, when put together, can have a great impact on
the success of the enterprise. [...] Kaizen answers the question
how to run a business, harmoniously combining the needs of
customers and continually improving the quality and efficiency
and most importantly, all still make money. Kaizen
philosophy is based on a human and technological subsystem
(improvement tools and techniques) . Depending on the
complexity and purpose, Kaizen can be oriented towards
management / top management (focusing on key strategic
issues, processes and systems), the team (based on collective
actions which use statistical tools for solving problems ) and
per unit (based on the assumption that each employee is able to
work better and can make a contribution to the improvement of
the organization). In practice, the implementation of Kaizen
program is focused primarily on the employees that make up
the organization, their continuous and effective
communication, cooperation and commitment to the
organization, in particular through active exploration and
correction of common sources of causes arising in the
processes of non-compliance. In addition, the possibility of
impacting on working conditions, often leads to an increase in
employee satisfaction, improved work environment and other
measurable effects, favoring the need for long-term
Due to the fact that all flows occurring in the enterprise
(for example, materials, services or information) involving not
only the top management, but also employees at lower levels of
the organizational structure, effective implementation of
Kaizen forces a change in the way of thinking, or even culture
throughout the facility. It is a prerequisite to achieve the
benefits, at least in terms of productivity growth, shortening
production time and reducing unnecessary inventories. Kaizen
culture is most often understood as the totality of behaviors,
projects, attitudes and values conducive to creating and
achieving ever higher levels of excellence, both in the
manufacturing process and its result. Developing a pro-quality
organizational culture conducive to adapting guidelines of
Kaizen, requires the organization to develop a climate of trust,
mutual respect, self-control, the need for creative thinking, a
sense of responsibility and loyalty to colleagues and employers.
Moreover, the integration of the business structures with
Kaizen implies dissemination to staff and managers the basic
principles of the implemented methods, in particular with
regard to the importance of teamwork and group problem
solving, responding and eliminating anything that might result
being wasteful and a systematic and permanent improvement
of the standards of their work.
As part of the transformation of the organizational culture
outside of training, there are also undertaken other activities
that build internal structures which mission is to promote and
support the described dimensions of Kaizen. An example
would be the so called Kaizen Story, a standard, consisting of
eight stages, recording formats and Kaizen activities, mainly
used in the process of visualization and problem-solving
Considering further benefits achieved through Kaizen the
financial dimension of introduced improvements should be
noted. Numerous case studies illustrate the benefits achieved
through the implementation of small improvements.
Although the basic premise of Kaizen is to create simple
and transparent solutions that streamline processes and thus
improve the results, it should be emphasized that this is a long-
term transformation of the organizational culture and
philosophy of comprehensive action. In principle, the
transformations made in manufacturing processes are designed
to improve their effectiveness, but every change is associated
with a potential risk, meaning the risk of failure to achieve
business objectives and implementation difficulties arising
from the specificity of the different phases of implementation.
Therefore, it is worth noting that Kaizen is also a potential
source of qualitative regression process, where new solutions
will not bring tangible benefits. Among the key barriers
identified, related to the implementation of Lean Management,
including Kaizen, in manufacturing companies, one should
distinguish the lack of competence of persons responsible for
the implementation of solutions for broadly defined Lean, poor
involvement of top management, incompetent linking of
strategy and company structure with those of Lean, inadequate
infrastructure, as well as active and passive resistance of
employees to change and an unmatched organizational culture.
Kaizen, though assuming slow, small changes, that build long-
term stabilization of the the business market requires proper
preparation of resources, not only human, which requires
financial expenditure, which may not always be profitable.
According to some authors, , Kaizen is effective mainly in the
slow economic development, and in times of rapid
development of new technologies, innovation and optimization
of strategies implemented by management is desirable.
The success of Kaizen, besides involvement of all
employees, including executives, has also developed a number
of measures improvements the verification of improvements
being developed. In the implementation of strategies to
maintain and improve identified through Kaizen standards, M.
Imai suggests proceeding in accordance with the PDCA cycle,
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assuming planning the aim of improvements, the
implementation of the idea, its evaluation and then
standardization and developing new procedures. This cycle is
repeated, which means that improvement is not considered as
completed until the new status quo will be the basis for further
Companies develop Kaizen procedure based on the four
stages of the Deming cycle.
During the planning stage, an idea for an improvement
occurs, which every employee can report. Most often it is
assumed that this improvement can be carried out in groups
consisting of a few people. The originator of improvements, the
so called Initiator (sometimes referred to as Kaizen Team
Leader), submits the proposal to the Kaizen coordinator by
describing the improvements in a specially prepared form of
improvement cards. Coordinators, depending on the areas
covered by the Kaizens are often leaders of areas (for example
in the field of health and safety aspects and 5S) and engineers
(in the case of improvements affecting the manufacturing
processes).The coordinator, before approving submitted idea,
by signing the consent form for the implementation, has to
verify it. In practice, such an assessment can refer to two basic
assumptions. First Kaizen cannot be corrected status quo. It has
to be improvement in workstations or ongoing processes in
defined, for the organization, aspects of Kaizen. These aspects
must be compatible with the policies and objectives of the
business enterprise and, for example, may relate to security (the
elimination of a potential accident), cost of production
(elimination of waste, including in particular the use and
optimization of material flow) or learning and sharing of
knowledge (actions to improve competence of workers in the
framework of practical training approach (called TWI
methodology, called training within Industry). Moreover,
coordinators must remember that the suggested kaizen, cannot
have a negative impact on other aspects of the work and
processes already in place.
The second step in the process of Kaizen is the
implementation of approved ideas for improvements. It is
recommended that the team responsible for the improvement
carried out the pilot implementation of the changes on a small
sample, and depending on the results, carried out the
implementation at an appropriate scale.
The next step is to evaluate the improvements. After
completion of the team members complete the form in which
you must take into account the description of the situation
before and after the implementation of the improvements, and
if possible, attach a photo documentation illustrating the effects
of the implemented idea. The coordinator, analyzes the
efficiency of the improvement and its impact on pre-defined
aspects of Kaizen. Depending on the strength of the impact of
improvements in various aspects, the coordinator of the team
gives them points that under the system of motivation, are
exchanged for awards.
The last step is to register the improvements in the Kaizen
database . At this stage, according to the assumptions of the
Deming cycle occurs the standardization of the verified
solutions and their further improvement.
The presented Kaizen implementation process takes place
in the so-called system of improvement, also referred to as the
activity of small working groups (Small group activities).
Verification of usefulness and cost-effectiveness offered by a
team of improvements to the coordinator, who single-handedly
decides on the acceptance and use of the solution. However,
such an approach may be too risky for the sensitive areas of the
organization, such as those related to health and safety. That is
why large companies prefer to comply with the so-called
employee suggestion system, which involves the evaluation of
the proposals by the top management or a specially appointed ,
interdisciplinary team of professionals.
In addition, minimalizing the risk of ineffective
implementation of solutions can also consist of the system of
measuring the effects of the implementation . In the case of
Kaizen method it is a current control primarily based on all the
results that have been reflected in the indicators of
effectiveness. Depending on the distinguished aspects to be
covered, improvements may include data on accidents,
employee engagement (so called engagement survey), process
efficiency, the percentage of waste production and on-time
delivery. Kaizens implemented within the Lean management,
like all investments, may also be subject to calculations on the
payback period. However, traditional management accounting
instruments do not always show the actual effectiveness of the
projects. Therefore, depending on the specific system of
improvement, it is recommended to do an individual
development of a model for assessing the effectiveness of the
production, which stimulates action in line with the philosophy
of Lean and is accepted by the finance department and
understood in the production area.
Effective implementation of Kaizen requires numerous
tools supporting reduction of losses, in particular for the so
called 3M - muri, mura and muda, meaning strain and
difficulties, mura - irregular, muda waste.
The synergy of tools used in Kaizen and the management
processes in the organization, most often mentioned in the
literature, is show in the form of the so called House
Kaizen/Gemba. It is a schematic, constructed analogously to
the so called House of Quality recognition of the relationship
of individual areas (levels) integrated by Kaizen.
The top of the house is formed from management processes
necessary to achieve the efficiency and performance of an
organization support the application of Kaizen. The
foundations of the House are formed of action, involving
employees. However, a necessary condition to ensure that
employees perform their tasks and at the same time striving to
maintain and raise standards is continuing management
involvement, which should demonstrate their strong motivation
and focus on Kaizen.
The Kaizen method is both an opportunity and a threat for
the modern organization, especially for enterprises. Depending
on how and to what extent consciously the implementation of
the changes is pursued, it could be an opportunity to strengthen
competitiveness or an additional source of costs or activities
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not generating any added value and thus bringing

Figure 1. Kaizen House
Source: Wider: M. Van Assen, G. Van Den Berg, P. Pitersma, Key Management Tools. The 60+ models
every managers need to know. 2nd edition, Prentice Hall, 2010, s.54
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Management of quality, safety, costs and logistics
Managerial Profile (yield
Management of people, resources, information and supplies
5S - Seiri (selection, screening), Seiton (systematics), Seiso
(cleaning), Seiketsu (standardization), Shitsuke (discipline / self-
Elimination of MUDA - waste
Supporting tools: Team work, Quality circle, Personal discipline,
Improved morale, suggestion for improvements, Visible
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