Kaizen – A Slow Steady Approach to Continuous Improvement

Posted by on Jan 27, 2019 in Continuous Improvement, Kaizen, Lean, Process Improvement | 0 comments

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Kaizen is a commonsense, low-cost approach to continuous improvement. It is ideal for projects that are short in duration and attack a specific, known problem that is physically observable. Making small improvements is also much easier for employees to accept and since the projects are small in duration and the results can be seen almost immediately.

A few years ago, I did kaizen training with a small company that had a problem with machine productivity. We conducted a kaizen on a rubber molding process and within a few hours improved the number of pieces produced from 38 shots to 45 shots per shift. This was accomplished by:

  • putting the raw material and finished good containers closer to the operator
  • making sure the operator did not have to wait for raw material or finished goods containers and she had everything she needed to do the job
  • installation of a small white board so the operator could keep track of her production on an hourly basis and document what downtime she experienced
  • The supervisor was instructed to monitor the white board each hour and resolve any issues the operator might experience

As you can see, there was nothing complicated about this project and it took very little time to observe what was going on and make the necessary changes. Key to making the improvements is an understanding of the eight forms of waste inherent in every process, i.e., TIM WOODS (see below), and how to eliminate them.

I had also worked with another company that had a problem in their accounting department specifically with their voucher process. This is where suppliers are issued a PO, the material is received and the packing slip is then compared with the PO to ensure what they received is what they ordered before paying the supplier. The employees were always behind in the process and working considerable overtime to complete it. The supervisor and I brought the employees into a conference room and asked for their ideas for what could be done differently. They suggested that each person be assigned certain suppliers and that the file cabinets be arranged so that all information for that supplier was in that cabinet next to their desk, so they wouldn’t have to get up and down throughout the day. Starting the next week, the layout was changed and within a few days, most overtime was eliminated and the employees were much happier.

The keys to making kaizen events successful are the following:

  • Narrow the focus of your project so it can be completed in a short amount of time.
  • Take time to observe what’s going on before you start the event.
  • Understanding the different forms of waste (TIM WOODS)
    • Transportation – movement of material
    • Inventory – raw material, work-in-process, finished goods, spare parts, etc.
    • Motion – people movement
    • Waiting – delays in performing a task due to missing material, equipment downtime, etc.
    • Overproduction – making or providing more than your customer wants or requires
    • Over-processing – giving your customer more than they need for free, i.e., additional reviews, inspections, sign-offs, re-work, etc.
    • Defects – errors, scrap
    • Safety / Skills – lost production due to unsafe work conditions or not having the skills necessary for the particular job
  • Get employees involved that are actually working in the process. Ask for their ideas and incorporate them.

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