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Published on Apr 02, 2024


The word Kaizen is derived from two Japanese words ‘Kai meaning Change’ and ‘Zen meaning Good’ which when roughly translated, Kaizen means Change for the better.Kaizen is a term that has had its fair share of press both good and bad since the boom of Lean Manufacturing in the late 1980’s.The good press stems from the people implementing change understanding the ethos behind kaizen, whereas the bad press is centred upon failed improvement activities.


Kaizen activities should be owned by the workgroup and be within their jurisdiction to implement with the minimum of support. This is the level of continuous small improvement activity which Toyota boasts returns them a ten percent cost down on internal processes year on year.

The next level of improvement activity is known as a Jishuken activity, this is where a workgroup encounter a problem that they are unable to overcome as a collective. They will then escalate this concern via the daily problem and countermeasure system where an external support member will be assigned to co-ordinate the activity. Jishuken means ‘fresh eyes’ and the approach is to combine personnel from outside the workgroup with the internal team to give a different perspective on the problem and also to bring specialist knowledge.

The final level of improvement is Kaikaku meaning ‘large step change’ these are relatively rare and focus on a major task such as re-laying out a production cell or installing a new piece of capital equipment within an ongoing production area. Again a co-ordinator would be assigned to ensure that the planned schedule is adhered to and if not escalate concerns to ensure swift resolution.

All of the above improvement activities is controlled and documented and the savings gained known before the activity commences and this is then used as a measure of the activities success.

The methodology used to monitor, control and measure is known as the P.D.C.A. cycle of improvement.

P = Plan thoroughly leaving nothing to chance.

D = Do the activity exactly as planned.

C = Check and confirm that the activity has delivered the desired results.

A = Act swiftly to resolve any outstanding issues, or standardise the new method.

Kaizen and Continuous improvement are simple tools and techniques to apply, but it is the deeper understanding of why you are doing it and how you manage it that take time to l

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