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Continuous Incremental Improvement Masaaki Imai Kaizen: The Key to Japan's Competitive Success

."Kaizen" means "continuous improvement". It is a major part of Toyota's lean manufacturing system that has made Toyota the top manufacturer of quality. It comes from the Japanese words "Kai" meaning school and "Zen" meaning wisdom. You can learn how to use this key component of Toyota's success and use it to help grow your business. Kaizen was created by Toyota just after WW II. economical cars.

a system of continuous incremental improvement in quality. safety and leadership... company culture. “incremental change” Originally a Buddhist term. adaptation of the Kaizen concept also requires changes in "the heart of the business". productivity. Kaizen comes from the words..Kaizen is. "Renew the heart and make it good.. processes. . technology." Therefore. "change for the better" or "improvement". corporate culture and structure .

In most cases these are not ideas for major changes. It is continuous. Kaizen is based on making little changes on a regular basis: always improving productivity. This is not a once a month or once a year activity. Everyone is encouraged to come up with small improvement suggestions on a regular basis. Japanese companies. a total of 60 to 70 suggestions per employee per year are written down.I ) What is Kaizen? Kaizen is a system that involves every employee . shared and implemented.from upper management to the cleaning crew. such as Toyota and Canon. safety and effectiveness while reducing waste .

and Suggestions for improvement .Foundation of the Kaizen Method Team work Personal Discipline Improved Morale Quality circles.

Creative solutions instead of capital expenditures.Focus Making small improvements on a continuous basis. .

worker motion. Instead of focusing on large. . communications. production capacity and employee retention. excess quality and in processes. over production. capital projects and major changes will still be needed. Kaizen Improves space utilization. Kaizen focuses on creative investments that continually solve large numbers of small problems. but the real power of Kaizen is in the on-going process of continually making small improvements that improve processes and reduce waste. waiting times.II ) What Are The Benefits Resulting From Kaizen? Kaizen Reduces Waste in areas such as inventory. use of capital. transportation. Kaizen Provides immediate results. product quality. and Kaizen will also improve the capital projects process. Large. employee skills. capital intensive improvements.

Suggestions should not be implemented next month or next week. Don't have suggestions disappear into a management "black hole. a suggestion submitted in the morning can be implemented that afternoon. In some cases. a manager spending a week on the shop floor working with employees to help and encourage them to develop suggestions will help. That manager should also ensure employees see their suggestions acted on immediately. For example." To get Kaizen started it can be helpful to bring in outside experts. direct involvement by the management is critical. but today. They can work in your facility identifying problems that those close to the work may not see .III ) Getting Started With Kaizen Employee training and communication is important. or sooner Keep employees informed about what happens with their suggestions. Combined with that.

Kaizen encourages and rewards the identification of problems by all employees Train employees in using Kaizen tools such as 5S. . With Kaizen we want to find. report. We don't like problems. or even fired). missed promotion. problems are opportunities to improve. and Line Balancing.A significant obstacle to Kaizen in many corporations is that problems are seen as negatives. Someone who is associated with a problem is likely to be negatively impacted (a lower raise. Kanban. and fix problems. In Kaizen.

obvious common sense. The results you can expect from a Five S program are: improved profitability. And they are. And 5s and VFM are both a part of Kaizen -. efficiency. . The Five S program focuses on having visual order. But until the advent of Five S programs many businesses ignored these basic principles.What is Five S? A Five S program is usually a part of. cleanliness and standardization. and the key component of Visual Factory (Workplace) Management (VFM). organization.a system of continual incremental improvement -. The precipices underlying a Five S program at first appear to be simple. service and safety.which is a component of lean manufacturing.

tools. As a result of the sorting process you will eliminate (or repair) broken equipment and tools. Materials. .Sort (Clean Up . equipment and supplies that are not frequently used should be moved to a separate.Tidiness ) "Sorting" means to sort through everything in each work area. common storage area. Don't keep things around just because they might be used.1) SEIRI . Items that are not used should be discarded. Keep only what is necessary. someday.

. Both the equipment/tools and materials you use.  The second part is where good labeling and identification practices are important.2) SEITON .putting everything in its proper place and setting up a system so that it is easy to return each item to its proper place. with everything properly identified and labeled. This means there are two important parts to Systematic Organization .Set In Order (Organize . need to be clearly identified and labeled.Orderliness )  A place for everything and everything in it's place. as well as their proper storage locations.

Regular cleaning and inspection makes it easy to spot lubricant leaks. While cleaning it's easy to also inspect the machines. This could also be thought of as inspecting. equipment misalignment.3) SEISI .waits while new supplies are delivered. Problems can be identified and fixed when they are small. equipment and supplies you work with. they could lead to equipment failure. tools. If these minor problems are not addressed while small. usually daily. missing tools and low levels of supplies. unplanned outages or long . breakage.Sweep (Regular Cleaning) Regular. cleaning is needed or everything will return to the way it was.unproductive . .

It's easy to slip back into what you've been doing for years. As you learn more. That's what everyone is familiar with.Standardize (Simplify) The good practices developed in steps 1 through 3 should be standardized and made easy to accomplish. update and modify the standards to make the process simpler and easier. One of the hardest steps is avoiding old work habits. Develop a work structure that will support the new practices and make them into habits.4) SEIKETSU . . It feels comfortable .

When there are changes .and then have everything continue to happen without any follow-up.such as new equipment. get things organized and labeled. make any needed changes in the standards and provide training that addresses those changes. new work rules that will effect your Five S program. .Sustain ( Discipline ) Don't expect that you can clean up. and ask people to clean and inspect their areas every day -. Continue to educate people about maintaining standards. new products. and adjustments to accommodate those changes.5) SHITSUKE .

You can create your own custom 5S posters. . and of the benefits that come from following a 5s plan.Communication Aids. and it is easy to slip back into doing things the old. Use custom 5S posters to remind employees of the proper procedures. comfortable way. is to use 5s posters and signs. and for maintain standards. Using 5s Posters and Signs: A good way to continue educating employees. allowing you to communicate the specific information that needs to be communicated at each location. Changing work habits can be difficult.

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