Kaizen Basics

- a summary of the basics of the Kaizen approach to continuous process improvement and how the techniques may be implemented.

Kaizen is a form of continuous process improvement that has been adopted in many development and manufacturing organisations. It gains its name from the Japanese word, the English of which is Kaizen, with a meaning of "improvement" or "change for the better."

Like many other forms of process improvement, Kaizen foucusses on the continuous improvement of processes within an organisation.

Kaizen basics

many of the schemes for process improvement have many aspects in common. The major differences tend to be where they came from and the slightly different bias each system has.

Some of the elements of the kaizen system involve what is referred to as a cycle of activity. This contains a number of main elements:

  • Standardise:   This is the preparation element of the Kaizen process. The activities and operations are standardised so that they are the same each time the process is undertaken.
  • Measure:   With the operations standardised it is possible to measure some of the key performance indicators, KPIs. In this way the activity can be benchmarked and also any changes quantified noted.
  • Gauge measurements:   The measurements can be compared to what is required in the system and also to industry expected values. In this way it can be seen whether improvements are needed or likely to be achieved.
  • Improve:   With the process standardised, measured and benchmarked, the next stage within Kaizen is for process improvement to be undertaken. This should utilise the usual process improvement processes.
  • Re-standardise the process:   With changes made to the process, it should be re-standardised to ensure that it is stable, and the measurements should continue to be made.
  • Repeat:   As the Kaizen process is one of continuous improvement, the overall cycle is continued and new opportunities for improvement are taken. Also the existing processes are monitored as sometimes external issues mean that the process may change and corrections need to be applied

This cycle of process improvement that is used within Kaizen, is widely used elsewhere and goes under the banner of other names. These names include the Deming cycle, Shewhart cycle, or PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Adjust).

By Ian Poole

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