Blog 2: Productivity Improvement Through Kaizen


Kaizen is a Lean manufacturing tool that can be used for productivity improvement and also reduction of wastages and takt time. Kaizen is a Japanese word in which KAI means “Change” and ZEN means “Good” so overall kaizen means change for better or improvement. It refers to any improvement, one at a time or continuous, large or small. It requires the involvement of the whole company from the workers to the management everyone can help in kaizen. These small changes can help in the improvement of productivity which results in a major change. It aims to eliminate waste hence it has been applied to many organizations. Like healthcare, banking, pharmaceutical, automotive industry, etc.


The concept of kaizen was developed during world war II, especially for small setup work improvement. Instead of encouraging large changes to achieve desired goals the TWI (training within the industry). Recommend that company should introduce small improvements. That could be implemented on the same day because during world war II there was neither time nor resources for the production of war equipment. This revolutionary concept became very popular in Japan in the 1950s and continues to exist in the form of Kaizen groups as well as similar worker participation schemes. The term Kaizen became famous around the world through the works of Masaaki Imai.

Masaaki Imai was a Japanese organizational theorist and management consultant, known for his work on quality management, specifically on Kaizen. Masaaki Imai published two fundamental books on business process management “Kaizen: Japanese spirit of improvement” (1985), which helped popularize the Kaizen concept in the West, and Gemba Kaizen: A Commonsense, Low-Cost Approach to Management (1997).


Two approaches have been discussed:

  1. Flow kaizen
  2. Process kaizen

Flow kaizen incorporates the proper layout or reorganization of an entire production area or even a company. Whereas process kaizen deals with improving individual work stand, i.e. improving the way the workers do their jobs. For continuous improvement, both flow and process kaizen are used. In this type of kaizen model, the operators look for small ideas which can be implemented on the same day. It is in contrast with the traditional model in which the time between concept development and project implementations is very large. It is a process when done properly humanize the workplace, eliminates muri, and teaches people how to learn to spot waste and eliminate it. This leads to increase productivity.


In case of any abnormality during the process, an improvement is suggested that may initiate a kaizen. The cycle for kaizen activity is called PDCA or Shewhart cycle or Deming cycle and is defined as:


5 whys are the technique that is used with PDCA. Which is the form of root cause analysis in which a user asks for a series of 5 whys to identify a failure and its cause.

Implementation is based on 4 steps

  1. Observe
  2. Explore
  3. Apply
  4. Adapt


              Observing means looking for places for small improvements. Every place has room for improvement. This process should not only be applied by the higher authorities or the managers but also by workers. The observer should not hesitate in giving ideas to the concerned authorities. Look for improvement that can be done in one day.


              After the idea is generated the concern people should explore how to correct it. Look for options based on their priorities (Cost, benefit, etc). Find out the solution to the problem. Research work is carried out to find the optimal solution for the problem, which will save time money, and effort and will be effective.


             After finding the best possible solution for the concern problem then comes the time to apply the process for the curing of the problem.  For that groundwork is done as to how to apply the process, take the help of workers, stop the process and apply the procedure.


Then comes the last stage of adaptation. At first adaption to the new change would be difficult but slowly and gradually the workers will adapt to the new environment. And then the cycle will again start for further improvement.

Advantages of Kaizen:

Following are the advantages.

  1. Reduce waste
  2. Product Quality improves
  3. Increase Teamwork
  4. Better understanding between the workers and the authority
  5. Increase efficiency
  6. Employs will be satisfied
  7. Improvement in the safety of workers

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