The Japanese Strategy of Continuous Improvement
What is Kaizen?
Kaizen means "improvement". Kaizen strategy calls for never-ending efforts for improvement involving everyone in the organization – managers and workers alike. Kaizen and Management
Management has two major components:
The objective of the maintenance function is to maintain current technological, managerial, and operating standards. The improvement function is aimed at improving current standards. Under the maintenance function, the management must first establish policies, rules, directives and standard operating procedures (SOPs) and then work towards ensuring that everybody follows SOP. The latter is achieved through a combination of discipline and human resource development measures. Under the improvement function, management works continuously towards revising the current standards, once they have been mastered, and establishing higher ones. Improvement can be broken down between innovation and Kaizen. Innovation involves a drastic improvement in the existing process and requires large investments. Kaizen signifies small improvements as a result of coordinated continuous efforts by all employees. Process-Oriented Thinking vs. Result-Oriented Thinking
Kaizen concentrates at improving the process rather than at achieving certain results. Such managerial attitudes and process thinking make a major difference in how an organization masters change and achieves improvements. Case in Point: Kaizen Time at Canon
In some Canon plants, the foremen are told to set aside the half-hour as Kaizen time – time to do nothing but thinking improvement in the workshop. The foremen use this period to identify problems and work on Kaizen programs. Factories are advised not to hold meetings during this 30-minute period, and foremen should not even answer the telephone then. Kaizen and Lean Manufacturing
Kaizen is the heart of Lean Manufacturing (also known as the Toyota Production System). Toyota states: "...based on the concept of continuous improvement, or Kaizen, every Toyota team member is empowered with the ability to improve their work environment. This includes everything from quality and safety to the environment and productivity. Improvements and suggestions by team members are the cornerstone of Toyota's success." Case in Point: 7 Principles of Toyota Production System
Employee Involvement and Empowerment: Toyota organized their workers by forming teams and gave them the responsibility and training to do many specialized tasks. Teams are also given responsibility for housekeeping and minor equipment repair. Each team has a leader who also works as one of them on the line. Quick and Easy Kaizen
Quick and easy Kaizen is aimed at increasing productivity, quality, and worker satisfaction, all from a very grassroots level. Every company employee is encouraged to come up with ideas – however small – that could improve his/her particular job activity, job environment or any company process for that matter. The employees are also encouraged to implement their ideas as small changes can be done by the worker him or herself with very little investment of time. Quick and easy Kaizen helps eliminate or reduce wastes, promotes personal growth of employees and the company, provides guidance for employees, and serves as a barometer of leadership. Each kaizen may be small, but the cumulative effect is tremendous. The quick and easy kaizen process works as follows:
The employee identifies a problem, waste, or an opportunity for improvement and writes it down. 2.
The employee develops an improvement idea and discusses it with his or her supervisor. 3.
The supervisor reviews the idea within 24 hours and encourages immediate action. 4.
The employee implements the idea. If a larger improvement idea is approved, the employee should take leadership to implement the idea. 5.
The idea is written up on a simple form in less...
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