Last week, I touched on the idea of involving and empowering all employees in the workplace through the corrective and preventive actions process by fostering taking initiative and a problem-solving (refer to blogpost ‘The Art of Addressing Non-Conformances in Operations’). To expand on this concept a bit further, we’re going to be looking at Kaizen–a continuous improvement strategy in which employees at all levels are also empowered to solve problems towards big gains.
Kaizen is a Japanese term and a lean production method that means continuous improvement—in short, to create more value and eliminate waste. This strategy engages every employee by making incremental improvements towards the “ideal condition.” There are two levels of kaizen that bridge together all parts of an organization. The first level is system or flow kaizen that focuses on the overall value stream, which is taken care of by management. In this level, target conditions are defined. The second level is process kaizen that focuses on individual processes, where work teams and team leaders are the biggest players. In this step, workers are empowered to creatively approach each process to create more value, eliminate waste, and ultimately reach the company’s goals1. The two levels cannot exist without each other, and all involved work synergistically to create strong returns with an even stronger workforce.
The benefits of a successful Kaizen cannot be realized without the initial presences of production processes, targets, and training. First, identify which process(es) are the target areas for rapid improvement. A value stream map is a powerful tool to identify the non-value-added elements within a process2. It’s important to have a clear understanding of the current state of the process in question, so ensure all relevant data is collected as well. Analyze the gathered information to find areas of improvement and establish target goals. Train all employees up for success in identifying and solving problems seen in the target process(es) throughout the lifetime of the Kaizen initiative. Finally, follow-up and ensure the improvements are sustained, and not just temporary2.
A Kaizen is a powerful method for creating rapid continual improvement while fostering a problem-solving and inclusive workforce. This method is one of my personal favorite lean tools as it can be applied to not only the workplace but in many aspects of life. Like stated earlier, the Kaizen is a unique method that focuses on the workforce just as much as the work produced to bring a truly holistic approach to improvement. Whether you are seeking to set-up standard operating procedures as part of your QMS or to improve efficiency of an already established process, EMMA International is here to help. Contact us by phone at 248-987-4497 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1Kaizen – what is it? Lean Enterprise Institute. (2022, June 16). Retrieved August 8, 2022, from https://www.lean.org/lexicon-terms/kaizen/
2Environmental Protection Agency. (2021, October 19). Lean thinking and methods – Kaizen. EPA. Retrieved August 8, 2022, from https://www.epa.gov/sustainability/lean-thinking-and-methods-kaizen