Kaizen – Lean Manufacturing Training

The concept of “Kaizen” in lean manufacturing is generally known as rapid improvement. The Japanese word actually means a business philosophy of continuous improvement, although it is sometimes debated that it just means improvement.

In most lean manufacturing implementations, a Kaizen is a project comprised of a few people that work together to make a rapid and substantial change. During a lean implementation, which is often conducted over a matter of a year or years, there would be many “kaizen events”.

The kaizen event is a tool to solve a problem. For example, suppose a hospital wants to improve the average wait time for a routine scan. The leader of the kaizen would assemble a team to work toward a solution to the problem. The team is generally a cross functional team, such as various individuals that work in, near, and might be impacted by the department. You wouldn’t want the only individuals working on the team to be from the department, as they may not have a wide enough view of the situation and would potentially have pre-conceived ideas. That old “we tried that before” mentality might exist with some in the department.

Even with a cross functional team, it is important for the leader to set the stage with a discussion about everyone keeping an open mind. The team often follows other lean principles, such as Plan-Do-Check-Adjust. In other words, they will develop an idea and give it a try, then adjust based on the outcome.

Kaizens events generally do not last long, sometimes just a few days. Often, the team will leave their normal jobs to join the team for the duration of the project. The time period depends on the project’s needs and requirements, but it is not a long drawn out ordeal.

A kaizen is usually about gaining substantial improvement in a short time. In the example of, suppose the average wait time is 45 minutes. The kaizen might have a mission of cutting this in half. The mission might read; Reduce scan wait time from 45 minutes to 22 minutes in 8 days.

The team generally will use a conference or training room for the duration of the project. Individuals should be able to focus on the project and no have to do two jobs and be interrupted for decisions unrelated to the project.

The team should have access to the data they need to complete the project. However, individuals should either verify the data, or collect their own.

After the team completes the project, they generally make a presentation to the department and upper management. There is also usually a celebration for the accomplishment.