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Kaizen is a business term that means a change for the better or a steady improvement. In other words, it is a Japanese business philosophy concerning the processes that frequently improve operations and involve all employees. It is productivity as a gradual and methodological process that Kaizen sees improvement in.

Said concept contains a wide range of ideas, which includes creating good working conditions to run a successful business. Creating a close-knit team atmosphere, making employees' jobs less stressful and more fulfilling can help in achieving this.

Key takeaways

  • Kaizen is defined as a Japanese business philosophy that focuses on gradual improvement, productivity and on making an operating environment more productive.
  • Kaizen seeks a change for the better and constant improvement.
  • Kaizen’s methodology emphasizes the fact that little changes can have a major impact on our future. 

Understanding Kaizen

Key objectives of Kaizen philosophy include just-in-time delivery, the use of good equipment, elimination of waste, standardized work and quality control

Making little changes over a period of time in order to improve a company’s way of working is the main goal of Kaizen business philosophy. However, that doesn't necessarily mean these changes happen gradually. The kaizen process simply helps us realize that the changes that are made now can have a huge impact on our future.

Any employee at a company can make an improvement. The idea is that everyone can lead the company to success and everyone should strive for success to help improve the corporate model.

The kaizen concept has been adopted by many companies in the world. One of such companies is Toyota Motor Corporation. Kaizen is one of the most important values of Toyota Motor Corporation. In order to improve its production system, Toyota motivates its staff which helps them to identify areas of potential improvement and create reasonable solutions.

The main idea of Kaizen

There are five key principles that Kaizen involves: know your customer, let it flow, go to gemba (or the real place), empower people and be transparent.

In Kaizen’s philosophy, there is no such a thing as a perfect end. Everything can be changed for the better and improved upon. Every employee must constantly strive for professional and personal growth.

Kaizen’s main idea is that employees who execute specific tasks know the most about them and how to properly perform those tasks. The best strategy for improvement is to motivate company’s employees to make a change.

Teamwork is the basis of kaizen. In order to encourage teamwork among employees, team meetings are organized. During these meetings possible ways of improvement, changes and new projects are discussed. 

The benefits of Kaizen

Kaizen gives companies different advantages. Here are some of the advantages of implementing Kaizen in a company’s working practices:

  • Greater staff satisfaction
  • Higher customer satisfaction
  • Lower staff turnover
  • Increase in loyalty of the employees
  • Low expenses
  • Higher efficiency and productivity
  • Better solution development

Kaizen and the PDCA Cycle

Normally all the changes and improvements in a company that uses Kaizen follow the PDCA cycle. PDCA stands for Plan-Do-Check-Act. The first stage is the Plan stage. It includes proposing a plan and plotting changes so that every employee knows what to do and expect when trying to solve a problem.

The second stage is the Do stage. At this stage the best solution for the problem is exercised. The third stage is the Check stage. It involves analyzing the solution to the issue to see if it helped to solve a problem.

The last stage of the PDCA cycle is the Act stage. At this stage, the solution is implemented. During this stage, the company decides whether the solution should become one of the company’s standards or it needs additional changes. Managers can decide to carry out more changes, in this particular case, kaizen goes back to the first stage. 

Just-in-Time Inventory Strategy

One of the kaizen process's primary objectives is to reduce waste and improve performance in the production system. A just-in-time (JIT) is a style of inventory management method which allows to receive goods from suppliers only when needed.  This inventory strategy makes it possible for the management to minimize the quantity of inventory by matching the date of the delivery of materials with the company's production schedules.

Kanban provides staff with visual cues. These cues let them know when it is time to order needed parts or materials

The system uses colored cards. These cards are used to control production and alert the staff when it's time to restock a certain part or material that they are in need of. It allows employees to immediately order the correct number of parts and a certain amount of any material from the supplier. It also helps with the material delivery process as it is delivered exactly to the place where they are needed in the factory.

The objective of kanban is to ensure the proper running of the factory assembly line and to avoid bottlenecks.

The Kaizen method

The Kaizen method is a business philosophy in which it provides guiding principles and tools to involve staff members in a constant improvement of different areas of a company. The main focus of the Kaizen method is aimed at improving the work environment by making all the employees involved in the work process and using teamwork. 

Example of Kaizen

One of the most famous examples of a company using kaizen is Toyota. The company uses kaizen to maintain its success. Nestle is another famous company that uses kaizen in their business model in order to reduce manufacturing costs.

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