Lean Manufacturing Practices — Kaizen

When I was a kid my mom had something called a white tornado — we would all get together, and clean for 20-30 min. In the end the whole house would look better, but equally importantly we all felt like we participated, so we felt more responsible for keeping it that way.

At Toyota they have been doing the same thing for decades. The Lean Manufacturing world calls it a “Kaizen event,” and it is a key element of the process which Toyota have used to build cars faster, cheaper, and better every year. They gather together a team and ask them to spend a day working to come up with improvements, and then go out on the floor and implement them.

The Kaizen event’s first and most obvious benefit is that provides time for improvements to be implemented immediately and regularly. But when it is a regular process, there are other benefits. Employees are encouraged to develop a pattern of looking for improvement opportunities, so they can have something to suggest to the team at the next event. The whole team takes ownership of the improvement process, and individual employees begin to see themselves as a team. There’s also a certain energy that is generated by making changes in real time.

At Toyota Kaizen is not just an event, but a continuous process of improvement, but the event is a key to developing a culture where continuous improvement is just part of the routine.

IT Departments need Kaizen events, new technology is coming at them faster than they can manage, processes aren’t automated just because nobody has a free couple of hours, and things can get messy very quickly. If your people aren’t motivated to improve the processes in their area, and feel frustrated with the demands of their work, you can help them by carving out time to have a Kaizen event once a month. Give them the tools and resources they need, and let them loose improving the things they touch every day.

9 Responses to “Lean Manufacturing Practices — Kaizen”


  1. 1faisal sabir suliman

    I think it is good way for involvement of people, but I donot know how it differs from brain storming, what are the tools of this way of management.

  2. The kaizen event is unlike brainstorming in that immediate action is performed. If there’s no version control for our apache configuration files. The traditional way of handling this might be to brainstorm various possible improvements and assign a task to do that improvement. But Kaizan says, just do it. Set up subversion and check those files in during the event.

    If these events are done regularly, and people are expected to make real improvements, they will think about improvement more often, and make them a part of the everyday fabric of the work. Then you move from the strange obsession with events, to continuous improvement, which is the real goal of Kaizan.

  3. 3Robert Coe

    kaizan is a Japanese word under no circumstances to be confused with kaizen:

    改竄 kaizan (n,vs) altering; falsification; faking

    改善 kaizen (n,vs) betterment; improvement; incremental and continuous improvement

    So remember to spell check your buzzwords, kids!
    (This helpful hint is from everything2.com)

  4. 4David

    In this article one major thing was left out, who taught this system to Toyota? Dr. Edward Deming an American did after WWII, SPC, Statistical Process Control was taught to them when the American companies would not embrace this “culture” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W._Edwards_Deming

  5. 5simon smith

    Excellent paper Mark

    How does this differ to six sigma in respect to identifying defects 3.4 and Kaizen continuous improvement?

    Thanks

    Simon

  6. Pls Tell Me some Tips Of Kaizan Improment of Technical Plant.

  7. 7Michael Mackett

    My idea of this is a variation of empowerment.With a “lets do it” approach, we are virtually empowing people to do what needs to be done. In my experience in pulp and paper, we enhanced both Kaizan and Empowerment by utilizing a structured Professional Development Day for “off shift” employees who would cometo the mill for sessions of “development, open round table, kick the can as well as proffessional involvment regarding systems and procedural teaching.

    The core of our employees would be encouraged to research and develop a presentation on any of their subsiquent ideas and were given time in upcoming “PD Days” to show the group what they found or wished to present for improvement or cost reduction…..

  8. We had an interview with professor Monden who is the author of Toyota Production System. He lives in Tokyo where I live now. He currently is a professor of Mejiro University still working on Toyota Production System.
    Please take a look at this interview.
    http://www.lean-manufacturing-japan.com/interviews/toyota_production_system.html

  1. [...] Ka­iz­a­n gro­ups­ b­reak­ d­own­ your b­usin­ess p­rocesses in­t­o com­p­on­en­t­s t­hat­ you can­ m­on­it­or for p­erform­an­ce. Wit­hin­ t­he m­easurem­en­t­s, t­he g­roup­ seek­ in­st­an­ces of b­est­ p­erform­an­ce t­hat­ if ad­op­t­ed­ g­en­erally could­ im­p­rov­e t­he p­erform­an­ce of t­he whole b­usin­ess. You could­ ext­en­d­ t­his b­y seek­in­g­ out­ b­est­ p­ract­ices n­ot­ just­ in­ your own­ com­p­an­y b­y in­ your sup­p­liers an­d­ cust­om­ers. When­ you hav­e foun­d­ how ot­her d­o a p­rocess quick­er, cheap­er an­d­ t­o a b­et­t­er st­an­d­ard­, you ap­p­ly t­his b­en­chm­ark­ t­o im­p­rov­e your own­ p­erform­an­ce. [...]

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