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Kaizen

From Academic Kids

Kaizen (Japanese 改善, literally "improvement") is an approach to productivity originating in applications of the work of American experts such as Frederick Winslow Taylor and Frank Bunker Gilbreth by post WW II Japanese manufacturers. The development of Kaizen went hand-in-hand with that of Quality control circles, but it was not limited to quality assurance -- the goals of kaizen include the elimination of waste, Just in Time delivery, production load leveling of amount and types, standardized work, paced moving lines, right-sized equipment, and others. A closer definition of the Japanese meaning of Kaizen is "to take it apart and put back together in a better way." What is taken apart is usually a process, system, product, or service.

The Toyota Production System is known for kaizen, where all line personnel are expected to stop their moving production line in the case of any abnormality, and suggestions for improvement are rewarded.

Kaizen often takes place one small step at a time, hence the English translation: "continuous improvement," or "continual improvement." Yet radical changes for the sake of goals such as just in time, and moving lines also gain the full support of upper level management. Goals for kaizen workshops are intentionally set very high because there are countless examples of drastic reductions in process lead time to serve as proof of their practicality.

The cycle of kaizen activity can be defined as: standardize an operation -> measure the standardized operation (find cycle time and amount of in-process inventory) -> gauge measurements against requirements -> innovate to meet requirements and increase productivity -> standardize the new, improved operations -> continue cycle ad infinitum.

Learn-by-Doing

The "zen" in Kaizen emphasizes the learn-by-doing aspect of improving production. This philosophy is focused in a different direction from the "command-and-control" improvement programs of the mid-20th century. Kaizen methodology includes making changes and looking at the results, then adjusting. Large-scale preplanning and extensive project scheduling are replaced by smaller experiments in improvement, which can be rapidly adapted as new improvements are suggested.

Masaaki Imai made the term famous in his book, Kaizen: The Key to Japan's Competitive Success.

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