Continuous improvement (CI) or Kaizen is the daily practice of creating small changes using low-cost common-sense solutions. In my post, Take Baby Steps for Continuous Improvement, there is a little history of how Kaizen was born. Continuous improvement involves everyone in the organization, improving processes everywhere, every day.
Since the goal of lean is to deliver to the customer the highest quality, at the shortest lead time, at the lowest possible cost, kaizen focus is quality, cost, and delivery. Kaizen’s major activities are 5S, standardization, and waste elimination. Daily execution of these three activities drives incremental improvement that brings dramatic results over time.
Daily CI is important to tackle small problems before they become big ones. The inspiration for daily kaizen comes from observation of frequent deviations from the standard, or ideas to improve the process. However, sometimes we have challenges that require a more methodical approach. When that happens, a Kaizen event comes to the rescue. Recurrent problems that affect productivity or KPI performance are a good candidate for an event.
A CI or Kaizen event is focused on one problem or improvement idea at a time. The goal is to accomplish dramatic improvements in 2-7 days period. These are rapid events, short, and based on common-sense solutions with very low or no-cost at all. The understanding of the problem, and kaizen planning are critical for success. It is also important to standardize the way of performing kaizen, everybody should follow the same steps and document the execution of those steps in the same way. A good method to ensure the problem-solving activity is standardize is using PDCA.
When it is done correctly, kaizen not only improve quality, cost, and delivery. It also helps the heart of the lean system, the people. It does so by eliminating safety hazards, simplifying processes, and teaching people how to identify opportunities, and improve their processes. In my next post, I will discuss the general steps to perform a kaizen event.