CI Tools

What are the kaizen steps?

Previously I mentioned that PDCA is a good tool to standardize the kaizen event.  Today I will show you the general steps to do a kaizen event and how to use PDCA.  The following are the general steps to plan and execute a kaizen event.

  1. Understand the problem
  2. Plan the event
  3. Learn about the current state
  4. Design and test the new process
  5. Validate the results against objectives
  6. Modify the process if necessary
  7. Once we achieved results, standardize, train, and communicate
  8. Make further improvements, start over.

We learn before that the planning step is critical for problem-solving.  It is because, during that step, you are studying the problem to understand in detail what is happening, which includes finding the root cause for the situation.  

It is similar while planning a kaizen event.  You start by understanding the problem or situation.  You need to describe the problem as detailed as possible using the affected KPI’s, the process name, and its description. The charter document is very useful for kaizen planning.  It is important to identify all the key information to make the event a success.  It includes the scope, objectives, expected deliverables, team members with their roles, event dates, location, and basic information regarding the problem to tackle. These two steps are the equivalent to the Plan step of PDCA, the next two are the Do step.

The third step is to establish the current state, to draw a picture of the process as is.  For this, you need to know the process, the first and last step, steps sequence, and standards.  You also need to know the customer needs.  The golden rule to fix problems is to go where the value is created, observe, measure, and ask questions respectfully.  Identify waste, where the flow stops, safety hazards or risks, and quality concerns. The most important part of the PDCA cycle is understanding the problem.  While doing a kaizen, it is critical to understand the process, including the root cause of the problems identified.

Equipped with this information, you are ready to start designing the new process.  For this, start brainstorming possible solutions.  The target is to eliminate waste, improve quality, or reduce the cycle time.  Refine the list and select those ideas that are expected to have a bigger impact, and the team is able to do it during the allotted time frame.  Test the process, simulate the conditions of the new process, and measure the results.  Analyze the results vs. the objectives, validate if the process can achieve them.  Modify the process if you need, test, and measure as many times as it is necessary until the desired condition is reached.  If you noticed, this fourth step is following PDCA by itself, as shown in the figure below.

The kaizen step equivalent to Check is to validate the effectiveness of the new process.  The event is scheduled for one week or less, but sometimes you will have pending items that need to be finished later.  This step includes follow-up on the completion of those items.  It also includes a revision of the results to determine if the kaizen achieved its objectives.  Normally, this follow-up process happens 30 days after the completion of the event.  Similar to what happens in the previous step, if the new process falls short on the objectives, you follow PDCA to modify, measure, and adapt until the desired condition is reached.

The last step in the kaizen event is to evaluate the performance of the process.  Process monitoring should be part of the daily operation as well as discussion of gaps between standards and current results.  Daily kaizen should address problems in quality, safety, or delivery performance.  Remember, once the improved standard is stabilized, it is time to start the improvement process again.

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