Masaaki Imai, in his Kaizen: the Key to Japan's Competitive Success published in 1986 that introduced KAIZEN™ to the Western corporate world, defined KAIZEN™ as: "a means of continuing improvement in
personal life, home life, social life, and working life. At the workplace, KAIZEN™ means continuing improvement involving everyone—managers and workers alike. The KAIZEN™ business strategy
involves everyone in an organization working together to make improvements without large capital investments." (Imai, 1986) Managers are encouraged to improve the efficiency of existing
infrastructure instead of investing in more of the same. "And that," says Imai, "can happen only if you are familiar with every inch of your Gemba (workplace)".
The objectives of KAIZEN™ include eliminating waste or activities that add cost but not value, just-intime delivery, production load leveling of amount and types, standardized work, paced moving
lines and right-sized equipment. Basically, KAIZEN™ takes processes, systems, products, and services apart then rebuilds them in a better way. KAIZEN™ goes hand-in-hand with that of quality control.
KAIZEN™ does not view problems as negative but rather sees them as positive opportunities for improvement. To implement change, KAIZEN™ finds, reports, and fixes problems. This program
encourages rewarding employees who expose inefficiencies and other issues. KAIZEN™ is about taking action to generate suggestions then implementing productive ideas as soon as possible.
KAIZEN™ results in improved productivity and quality, better safety, faster delivery, lower costs and greater customer satisfaction. Furthermore, employees find work to be easier and more enjoyable—
resulting in higher employee morale and lower turn-over. Outcomes include:
- Reduction in waste in areas such as inventory, waiting times, transportation, worker motion, employee skills, over production, excess quality, and in-processes
- Improvement in space utilization, product quality, use of capital, communications, production capacity, and employee retention
- Immediate results. Instead of focusing on large, capital-intensive improvements, KAIZEN™ focuses on creative investments that continually solve large numbers of small problems. The
real power of KAIZEN™ is in the on-going process of continually making small improvements that improve overall processes and reduce waste.
A key element of the Toyota Production System (TPS) is Kaizen. The Toyota Production System is frequently compared to a house with two pillars. One pillar represents just-in-time (JIT), and the
other pillar the concept of jidoka. The house will not stand without both pillars. JIT is fairly well understood, but jidoka is crucial, since it upholds the entire system. A lot of failed
implementations can be traced back to not building this second pillar. What does jidoka mean? A common answer to this question is "autonomation" or "automation with a human touch." This is usually illustrated by example of a machine that will detect a problem and stop production automatically rather than continue to run and produce bad output. The principle's origin goes back to 1902 when Sakichi Toyoda invented a simple but ingenious mechanism that detected a broken thread and shut off an automatic loom. That invention allowed one operator to oversee the operation of up to a dozen looms while maintaining perfect quality. Toyota refers to every process, whether human or automatic, being enabled or empowered to autonomously detect abnormal conditions and stop. When JIT and jidoka work together, they form the engine of KAIZEN™ that drives your system to get better every day. There are two things that are part of every Toyota' employee's job:
1. Follow the standard
2. Find a better way
This is the essence of Kaizen. These simple yet profound rules are what drive every employee to maintain safety, quality, low cost, and on-time, striving to make it better. To ensure that the Kaizen
mindset is being followed and that every individual's creativity is being fully utilized, the following three rules are commonly prescribed:
1. Spend no money
2. Add no people
3. Add no space
KAIZEN™ will reduce costs, space requirements and cycle time. Of course, since it is continuous, as soon as one set of problems are solved, new problems occur which must be overcome. By going
through this process, the production system becomes stronger and stronger. The results are:
1. 65% reduction in work-in-process
2. 50% reduction in manufacturing space
3. 45% improvement in throughput time (lead-time)
The Japanese management encourages employees to generate a great number of suggestions and works hard to consider and implement these suggestions, often incorporating them into the overall
KAIZEN™ strategy. Management also gives due recognition to employee's efforts for improvement. An important aspect of the suggestion system is that each suggestion, once implemented, leads to
an upgraded standard.
According to the Japan Industrial Standards, implementing quality control necessarily involves the cooperation of all people in the company, including top management, managers, supervisors, and
workers in all areas of corporate activities. Quality control carried out in such a way is called company-wide quality control or total quality control (TQC).
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Cheser, R. (1994). KAIZEN™ is More Than Continuous Improvement, Quality Progress, April, pp. 23-26.
Masaaki Imai (1986). Kaizen: The Key to Japan's Competitive Success, McGraw-Hill Publishing Company, New York NY.
Kandebo, S. W. (1995). Sikorsky Boosts Quality, Cuts Costs with Kaizen, Aviation Week & Space Technology, 1 May, pp. 39-40.
Lillrank, P., N. Kano (1989). Continuous Improvement: Quality Control Circles in Japanese Industry, Center for Japanese Studies, The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor MI.
Robinson, A., ed. (1991). Continuous Improvement in Operations: A Systematic Approach to Waste Reduction, Productivity Press, Cambridge MA.
Stuart, M., E. Mullins, and E. Drew (1996). Statistical Quality Control and Improvement, European Journal of Operations Research, Vol. 88, pp. 203-214.
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