Kaizen method: what it is and how it promotes continuous improvement in companies

There are many models of business management in trying to improve productivity and many of them come from Japan.

This is the case of the Kaizen method. With these paragraphs, we will analyze this methodology in detail to understand where its effectiveness lies. We will see what improvements it offers compared to other systems. We will also discover the most used tools.

    What is the Kaizen method?

    The Kaizen method is a procedure for managing organizations that seeks to achieve the highest possible production at the lowest cost. To do this, it is essentially a question of optimizing all the tasks involved in the process, so that they are all effective and efficient. In other words, it seeks to improve each part of the productive system.

    The term Kaizen is Japanese, place of origin of this method. It means change (“fall”) and goodness (“zen”), so changing for the better would be the full definition. It is not a modern methodology, but it was created in post-war Japan after WWII as one of the means to achieve rapid industrial reconstruction in a country devastated after the terrible war. .

    The philosophy offered by the Kaizen method is that through a series of small changes we can achieve big improvements in the end results, because each small change multiplies the end effect. It’s not just about improving existing processes, it’s about eliminating those which, instead of contributing, are in fact left to us, either because they are unnecessary or because they may be. done much more efficiently.

    Somehow, this system would promote a slower walk, in exchange for these small steps that are always safeThus, they will reduce the chances of finding significant contingencies that require you to devote large resources to their resolution. Another advantage of taking small steps is that it makes the change gradual and therefore the reluctance to do so will also be less.

      The five S’s of the Kaizen method

      The Kaizen method is characterized by a system known as the five S’s because it includes five Japanese words that begin with this letter and each of them indicates one of the qualities of this methodology that we must take into account when “ apply it ”. Below we will break them down so that we can get to know them all in detail.

      1. Seiri

      The first S of the Kaizen method corresponds to Seiri. This concept emphasizes the organization of the elements that the company, in order to be able to do a distinction between the parts which are essential to the production and which at the same time bring out those which in fact contribute little or not at all.

      2. Seiton

      Once this first identification was made, the Seiton, or order, would arrive. It is about making lists with the positive parts that we have identified throughout the previous point. The purpose of this task is to have an overview of all the essential tasks of our process and that they are all correctly identified.

      That way, we won’t have to use any resources in the future to find them, as it’s a job we’ve done before.

      3. Six

      The key to the Kaizen method lies in the Seiso. this is the point where we will find possible errors or inefficient forms of action within the productive system of our company. It is not just a question of identifying them, the important thing is to find a cure for each of them.

      4. Seiketsu

      We would thus arrive at Seiketsu, the fourth S. What is proposed at this stage is the importance of have the resources so that all employees benefit from a suitable work climate and can thus form a competitive team. And it is that a company can reach the highest level only if it has the right tools for it.

      5. Shitsuke

      Shitsuke is the concept that closes the circle of the 5 S of the Kaizen method. this point it refers to the commitment that all members of the organization must make to the methodology. It is essential that everyone paddle in the same direction, using what this system offers as a guide for action. Only in this way will the best results be obtained.

      Kaizen groups

      One of the techniques used by the Kaizen method is that of the so-called Kaizen groups, which in turn they are based on Ishikawa quality circles. These groups are made up of six people, one of whom will act in charge of the group and another will be the one who will advise them on the application of the system, so that there are four members of the team as of.

      The first thing this group needs to do is define the problem that concerns them and that is why they have come together. They will then need to look at the characteristics of this situation to get a full perspective. They will then move on to the analytical phase, to find out what may have caused the problem.

      The next phase involves the team taking action, carrying out tasks that solve the identified causes and thus eliminate the problem. It is important to verify that the action was effective and that the incident has therefore been resolved. Otherwise, we would have to go back to the previous phase to find other different solutions.

      The team’s work doesn’t stop there. It’s time to standardize the actions that have been carried out as part of the usual work routines in the organization; it is therefore necessary to ensure that the problem which initially encountered them will not occur again. All that remains is to plan the team’s next goal in order to continue to identify and resolve the issues.

        Other techniques of this methodology

        The Kaizen method uses other tools to achieve the proposed objectives. Let’s see some of them.

        1. Kaizen Kobetsu

        this tool offers different ways of approaching the problems facing the company, depending on their complexity and danger. In this sense, if the incidents are of low importance, the Kobetsu Kaizen Flash would be formed, a very short team meeting (5 minutes) organized each day. Once the issue is resolved, it should be resolved within a maximum of 3 hours.

        If the problems they face are already more complex and therefore require more resources to be solved, the way to work would be the Kaizen event. In this case, the incident must be resolved before 8 hours have elapsed since it was identified. In this case, as in the previous one, the solution is generally provided by the person alerting the problem or by a person of the same rank.

        Finally i for cases where the problems are too big to be solved in such a short time, the Kobetsu Kaizen tool would come into play. This brings together teams that have members from different departments involved and in turn uses other tools that may be useful for resolution. Up to 3 hours per day will be devoted to this, reaching a maximum of 16 hours to give a definitive solution.

        2. Kaizen Teian

        Another tool used in the Kaizen method is that of the Kaian Teian. Its basis is that ideas are only useful when they are realized in reality. That is why they place great importance on the talent of each worker and the ideas proposed are supported if they are in the direction of improving productivity. Thanks to these ideas, small improvements will be made, which is the fundamental principle of this methodology.

        It is necessary that all members of the company engage in this method so that they provide all the suggestions they can and thus, with the joint work of all, the best results are achieved. This is why they can be rewarded for their good ideas, but not financially, so that is not the only motivation to participate.

        3. Kaizen Nissan

        The Nissan Kaizen, so named for its application in this business, is another system suggested to seek improvements. It has the side of Kaizen 2 days, in which a group of experts from different departments analyzes a specific profession and make changes to the schedule to make it more productive.

        On the other hand, there is the Kaizen 2 hours, another of the modalities of this tool of Kaizen method. In this case, it is the head of the section who devotes this time to making improvements, although they are very small, with which he seeks to increase the efficiency of his employees.

        Bibliographical references:

        • Brunet, AP, Nouveau, S. (2003). Kaizen in Japan: an empirical study. International Journal of Production Operations and Management.
        • Imai, M. (2000). How to implement Kaizen in the workplace (Gemba). Bogota: McGraw.
        • Mans, A. (2007). The benefits of Kaizen and Kaizen events. Quality progression.
        • Suárez, MF, Miquel, JA (2008). Finding Kaizen: A Theoretical Analysis of Continuous Improvement. Pecvnia: Journal of the Faculty of Economics and Commerce. University of León.

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