What is Kaizen? What are the benefits of Kaizen? What do you need to do to get started using Kaizen principles?

Kaizen (改善?), Japanese for "improvement", or "change for the better", 改 ("kai") which means "change" or "to correct" and 善 ("zen") which means "good", refers to philosophy or practices that focus upon continuous improvement of processes in manufacturing, engineering, and business management

Kaizen targets for 3Ms for improvement,

Muda :– Wastage (avoid all wastage)
Muri :– Strain (causing inefficiency – avoid strain , work smarter)
Mura :- Errors / Discrepancies  (avoid errors)

Kaizen is a system that involves every employee - from top management to the cleaning crew. Kaizen is a daily process, the purpose of which goes beyond simple productivity improvement. It is also a process that, when done correctly, humanizes the workplace, eliminates overly hard work (muri)and teaches people how to perform experiments on their work using the scientific method and how to learn to spot and eliminate waste in business processes. In all, the process suggests a humanized approach to workers and to increasing productivity: "The idea is to nurture the company's human resources as much as it is to praise and encourage participation in kaizen activities.

Key features of Kaizen:

Improvements are based on many, small changes rather than the radical changes that might arise from Research and Development. As the ideas come from the workers themselves, they are less likely to be radically different, and therefore easier to implement. Small improvements are less likely to require major capital investment than major process changes.

 The ideas come from the talents of the existing workforce, as opposed to using R&D, consultants or equipment –
}any of which could be very expensive.All employees should continually be seeking ways to improve their own performance.It helps encourage workers to take ownership for their work, and can help reinforce team working, thereby improving worker motivation.

Successful implementation

It requires "the participation of workers in the improvement." People at all levels of an organization participate in kaizen. Everyone is encouraged to come up with small improvement suggestions on a regular basis.

Kaizen is based on making little changes on a regular basis: always improving productivity, safety and effectiveness while reducing waste. It can be anything from wastage control in cutting to the lightening level at the machine needle point. Every small change can help to improve productivity, quality , safety or the working condition and environment in the factory.

Kaizen defines management’s role in continuously encouraging and implementing small improvements involving everyone. That means that if management isn't ready to lead by example, Kaizen will not get off the ground.

For example, a manager spending a week on the shop floor working with employees to help and encourage them to develop suggestions will help. That manager should also ensure employees see their suggestions acted on immediately. Suggestions should not be implemented next month or next week, but today. In some cases, a suggestion submitted in the morning can be implemented that afternoon, or sooner. Keep employees informed about what happens with their suggestions. Don't have suggestions disappear into a management "black hole".
Masaaki Imai lists the following kaizen duties for the different levels in management:

Position: top management:

be determined to introduce kaizen as a corporate strategy;
provide support and direction for kaizen by allocating resources;
establish policy for kaizen goals through policy deployment and audits;
build systems, procedures ad structures conducive to kaizen
Middle management and staff:

deploy and implement kaizen goals as directed by top management through policy deployment and cross-functional management;
use kaizen in functional capabilities;
establish, maintain and upgrade standards;
make employees kaizen-consciuous through intensive training programs;
help employes develop skills and tools for problem solving

Use kaizen in functional roles;
Formulate plans for kaizen and provide guidance to workers;
Improve communications with workers and sustain high morale;
Support small group activities (such as quality circles) and the individual suggestion system;
Introduce discipline in the workshop;
Provide kaizen suggestions

engage in kaizen through the suggestion system and small gruoup activities;
practice discipline in the workshop;
engage in continuous self-development to become better problem solvers
The best part of Kaizen is that it does not require much investment or sophisticated techniques, in some areas even no investment required to improve the process. The only thing required to use the existing tools/facilities in a systematic and disciplined manner and participation from all levels. Proper line balancing, WIP control, workspace management, Inventory control, cleanliness of the shop floor are the few basic examples of the Kaizen which we use in our daily work life.

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