Kaizen: Basic Concepts and key practices
Kaizen is a Japanese philosophy based on gradual but ongoing and never-ending day-to-day improvement approach in all aspects of an organization, not only productivity. Literally Kaizen translates to English as “good change”, the true meaning of the word is continuous improvement implemented through positive step-by-step changes. For proper functioning Kaizen requires active participation from everybody at all levels in an organization: from the top management down to the lowest skilled workers, since the philosophy assumes that everybody has an interest in improvement, not just at work but in all aspects of life.
Kaizen is based on three main points:
Management of workplace
On elimination of waste, Kaizen transpires with the concept of lean manufacturing where efforts are applied to tackle with Muda (the seven wastes relating to activities which are non-value adding), but also Mura (related to unevenness especially in demand and supply arrangements) and Muri (related to overburden and excessiveness).
Standardization helps the organization be efficient in all aspects including production by being structured and adopting best-for-purpose practices leading to efficiency and harmony at work which in turn facilitate the attainment of the above mentioned waste elimination and effectively reaching organization targets.
Management of workplace or good housekeeping also relates and overlap with the above two points, but the Japanese have developed a specialized method to address this particular point, the method is known as the 5S, each for the Japanese words: “seiri – seiton – seiso – seiketsu – shitsuke” which in English language roughly translate to: sort (remove unnecessary objects from work area so that they do not hinder the process), straighten (sort things out so they can be found easily), shine (clean work area and keep it in good aesthetics so that the work