What are the Kaizen’s pillars?

kaizen pillars

Kaizen or continuous improvement is the daily practice of creating small changes using low-cost common-sense solutions.  Kaizen’s pillars or major activities are 5S, standardization, and waste elimination.

Where there is no standard, there can be no improvement.  For these reasons, standards are the basis for both maintenance and improvement

Misaaki Imai

5S is the first of the Kaizen’s pillars

Housekeeping and 5S are basic activities for any continuous improvement effort.  For instance, employees acquire self-discipline by practicing 5S daily.  Without discipline, it is impossible to sustain a continuous improvement culture.  Also, 5S helps to create a visual workplace.

In general, people feel uncomfortable when the problems are visible. Therefore, it is normal to hide or not uncover them to avoid undesired questions from the boss or dealing with them. However, you cannot fix what you cannot see. 5S and visual management make the out-of-standard situation easy to recognize. The objective is to see the problems and correct them as soon as possible.

Standardization is another kaizen’s major activity

When we fail to achieve the expected results, it is because the process fails.  Many times, it fails because there is no standard.  Each individual has a way to do things.  Standard work is the safest, highest quality, and most efficient way to execute a particular task.  Standardization is the practice of setting, communicating, following, and improving standards and standard work.  The best way to achieve consistent results and minimize mistakes is to follow the standard work.  

To improve the results, we have to improve the process.  But we need to have standards in place before we try to improve it.  That is why standardization is one of the earlier steps on the lean journey.  Visual management is a way to standardize. It helps to recognize defects, inventory, waiting times, and other types of waste.  Waste elimination is a cost-effective way to improve processes and reduce operating costs.

The first steps on the lean journey are to stabilize the process, create standards, and visual management.  Process stabilization is achieved by practicing 5S and waste identification.  Standards produce a clear image of the desired condition.  You cannot fix what you don’t see. By making conditions out of standard visible, 5S, standards, and waste elimination are the pillars of kaizen or continuous improvement.

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