Kaizen is a Japanese philosophy, which believes in constant change to improve productivity. It is a school of thought which insists that change is the only way to progress. It emphasizes on improvement of productivity by eliminating muri or unnecessary hard work. The word kaizen has been derived by combining two words: 'kai' meaning change and 'zen' for better. Thus, the term actually translates into change for the better in English. Kaizen works on the motto of "nurture the company's human resources as much as it is to praise and encourage participation in kaizen activities". To achieve successful completion of processes by using kaizen, one requires participation from the top most level of management to the base level workers.
What are the Benefits of Kaizen?
The first and foremost advantage of implementing kaizen principles in your work processes is that it largely reduces wastage in every process. It involves every person in spotting the wastage. Thus, it includes suggestions from all levels of management and work forces. The factor of constant change makes the management spot the problem, study it carefully, question it, find the root cause, design an alternative and implement it as a part of regular process. This helps in minimizing wastage of resources.
Confrontation of the problem helps in solving it faster. Kaizen believes in, on the spot alternatives for solving issues. Immediate troubleshooting reduces lead time and gets production back on track. Many times, these temporary solutions are improvised to make permanent changes in the processes.
As resources are salvaged, they can be used for required purposes. Implementation of kaizen benefits production, as automatically, resources are used judiciously. It satisfies the unlimited demands with limited resources, by prioritizing the needs.
As problems get sorted out, a team spirit is built. Colleagues learn to do their work in a new light and with a fresh perspective. This dissolves the prejudices about each other. All of this culminates into improved teamwork, bringing about a smooth flow of work.
As problems are solved, teamwork is re-established and resources are salvaged, the quality of production becomes better. With new processes in place, work gets streamlined, which enhances time management as well.
The idea of kaizen was engineered by Dr. Deming in 1950 after the World War II. After witnessing its benefits, the Emperor of Japan gave Second Order Medal of the Sacred Treasure to Dr. Deming in 1960. In the subsequent years, Union of Japanese Science and Engineering (JUSE) declared Deming prizes for quality of products to Japanese industries. This greatly improved the Japan's industrial sector post the devastating wasting. On 18th October 1989, Florida Power & Light Company (FPL), became the first non-Japanese company to win the Deming Prize.
Today, Toyota Production System is popular for the practical application of kaizen in their work processes. In case of any ambiguity, work is stopped and employees have to sit down with their managers for round of discussions to come up with solutions.
Most of the principles of kaizen are actually based on commonsense. Its pivotal ingredients are pivotal quality, effort, involvement of all employees, willingness to change, and communication. All of this does not require any difficult mathematical or scientific calculations. Being observant plays a big role in seeing the benefits of kaizen in reality. Kaizen's advantages are purely based on human efforts and attitude towards their work and workplace.