What is Kaizen?
Kaizen refers to the practice of continuous improvement. It is a Japanese business philosophy or system that is based on making positive changes on a regular basis, gradually, in order to improve performance or productivity. Kaizen is made up of two words: ‘kai’, which means change and, ‘zen’, which means good. Thus the literal meaning of kaizen is ‘change for the better’.
In the context of business, kaizen can refer to a set of changes that are good for the functioning of an organisation and help it in attaining its goals.
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Kaizen is a slow process of improvement and therefore requires coordinated efforts form all areas of an organisation to attain an overall improvement. The main aim for applying kaizen is to eliminate waste in business processes. For this, employees must be trained to experiment in their work through scientific methods so that they can learn how to detect waste and remove it.
In order to implement kaizen, employees should be first made aware of its requirement in the organisation and then guided to make the changes required in order to bring about the desired improvements. Through kaizen, organisations are able to make gradual, continuous improvements in their products, systems and processes. The method has alsoattracted some criticism,
- One of the reasons for applying kaizen is to implement change, which requires strong commitment from the top management, which is not always forthcoming.
- Due to the slow pace of improvement, an organisation may feel that it is lagging behind in the market. Whenever a new method for improvement is implemented, people expect drastic results in a short span of time.
- Employees, too, show resistance to change as they have developed a comfort zone by performing known practices over a long period. Any kind of change will require additional efforts from the employees, which they are not always willing to do.
Practice of Kaizen
In kaizen methodology, all line personnel and supervisors are instructed to stop the production line process in case of abnormalities. Further, the concerned personnel required to provide an enhancement strategy to resolve the abnormality.
In an organisation, the practice of Kaizen consists of the following activities:
- Standardising operations and processes
- Measuring and monitoring operations
- Calculating cycle time and in-process inventory
- Matching measurements against requirements
- Innovating to enhance productivity
- Standardising new operations
- Continuing the operations cycle
Benefits of Kaizen
Kaizen helps businesses in making valuable improvements in processes and products by deploying employee creativity to define the procedures to improve the functioning of the same.
Kaizen works on the idea of people’s involvement. Therefore, people are motivated to work together to identify new ways of making improvements in processes. For instance, a hair salon in Seattle that has applied kaizen depends on its team of stylists to provide services according to customers’ requirements. This allows customers to receive individual attention and services without spending much time.
Kaizen helps an organisation in achieving desired efficiencies by developing a lean business. For instance, Toyota implemented kaizen to train its employees to assemble automobiles with precision. As a result, the speed with which the automobiles were manufactured increased dramatically, which further improved efficiency in the assembly process.
Kaizen ensures employee satisfaction by encouraging workers to provide suggestions for improvement in processes. This creates a sense of ownership among employees, who get motivated to work for the attainment of their goals with renewed dedication and commitment. Moreover, employee productivity also gets enhanced due to increased involvement of the employees as they feel more responsible towards their work.
Another important benefit of implementing kaizen is improvement in safety. This happens due to the implementation of clean work areas, allowing better control of machines and processes. Employees are also asked to make suggestions to make their work areas safe. All these measures ensure a reduction in the number of accidents and injuries in the workplace.