Kaizen is both a methodology and a philosophy at the core of Lean manufacturing. Continuous improvement is synonymous with kaizen, meaning no process is fully developed, people should always be looking for ways processes can be improved. Kaizen focuses on improving processes, standardizing processes, involving workers from all levels, and much more.

The following are five strategies, out of many, that kaizen uses:

  1. Gemba: The phrase “go to Gemba first” is common when talking about or implementing kaizen. Gemba means to “go and see the problem,” and is an excellent tool in the efforts of continuous improvement. Since Kaizen focuses on getting workers involved at all levels, the Gemba walk brings managers and supervisors to those working right on the floor to observe the process first hand and get opinions from those working the process. These people are a wonderful source of pertinent advice or recommendations as they are the experts at their job.
  2. PDCA cycle: The PDCA is an effective and excellent tool to ensure improvement is continuous and doesn’t diminish when it is achieved. PDCA stands for each step in the cycle, plan, do check, and act. And because it is a cycle, will be repeated time and time again as there is always room for improvement.
  3. Quality circles: A quality circle is a group of experts at their job. These small groups usually consist of employees who perform the same or similar job roles who meet on a somewhat regular basis to identify and solve issues related to their role. This is an excellent strategy for involving workers on every level while continuously identifying areas to improve.
  4. Kanban: The Kanban system’s core is a visual card or bin and is a pull-management system aimed to reduce waste, particularly the amount of inventory in Work in Progress. Essentially, a Kanban system is a visual aid that triggers an action. If after holding a Kaizen event and notice waste from an inventory surplus, a facility manage might decide to implement Kanban cards as a form of standardizing the work process. These cards will reduce inventory and accurately alert the worker when it is time to re-order or replace inventory in a timely manner.
  5. Total productive maintenance (TPM): TPM is all about proactive and preventative maintenance to maximize the operational efficiency of equipment or machines. The goal of TPM is keep productivity up and continuously check or improve maintenance in the facility.

 It’s important to remember these tools and strategies are not stand alone. For instance, Gemba walks can be used to inform the PDCA cycle; when quality circles meet up, they will most likely work through the PDCA cycle as well. All in all, each of these strategies, and more that weren’t mentioned in this post all work towards the goal of zero waste, a quality product, and a satisfied customer.

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