When and How to Use Your Kaizen Event?
Process issues are inevitable in the workplace, which is why companies invest in methods and tools with continuous improvement as focus. One of the most effective and preferred ways to do that is to conduct a Kaizen event.
A Kaizen event is a process improvement approach undertaken by employees involved in a process issue. It covers ten steps aimed at resolving such issues with the end goal of improving productivity among employees. Here they are:
- Determining the issue
- Mapping out the current scenario
- Visualizing the desired scenario
- Setting achievable goals
- Brainstorming of potential solutions to the issue
- Laying down the Kaizen plan
- Executing the plan
- Analyzing, recording and comparing plan results vis-à-vis the goals
- Preparing a summary
- Creating an actionable plan to sustain initial efforts
Sometimes, companies hesitate to conduct a Kaizen event as it would take the whole team affected by the issue away from their workplace responsibilities for a significant amount of time (three to five days). Companies then tend to micro manage and opt to substitute such event with operational projects involving people of the same field. For instance, Sales and Marketing people can work together on an action plan, while Finance and Accounting people are tasked to optimize their procedures. As the issue necessitates one collective approach to improvement, these companies fail in their goal to create a solid action plan.
A well though out, carefully planned Kaizen event will definitely cover for the perceived waste of participants’ work man hours. Even so, their actual responsibilities will become easier with the issue already properly extinguished. This leads to better performance and enhanced productivity, which any company can benefit from.
To give you an example of the power of a Kaizen Event here is a video showing the evolution of a 5 day event.
There are many different topics a Kaizen event can revolve around, and these range from simple to complex, but those challenges are always resolved in a short time frame ( max 5 days). For the purpose of illustration, let us take the more common ones as example.
First is making the workplace more conducive by implementing the 5S rule. This methodology was introduced in Japan, and stands for Japanese principles pertaining to cleanliness, standardization and discipline. This especially applies to manufacturing and production companies that are more prone to clutter, resulting to less productivity. In English, 5S translates to Sort (removing unused items in the workplace), Set in Order or Straighten (personalizing the workplace to enhance efficiency), Shine (cleaning of the work), Standardize (creating a standard workflow), and Sustain (ensuring long-term implementation).
Also founded on the 5S rule, the second possible topic is the adoption of Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) – an equipment maintenance approach that aims to avoid zero equipment breakdowns, slow running, and defects. This involves the execution of active and preventive maintenance to ensure smooth operation of production or manufacturing equipment.
Third is the implementation of a One-piece Process Flow. A key concept popularized by the Toyota Production System, One-piece Flow advocates just-in-time production. This means that the right parts can be produced when required, but only in the required quantity. Contrary to mass or series production, this flow shows the efficiency of producing one product at a time or a small quantity at a time. The system works best within a functional layout wherein all needed parts and requirements are stored or used. The cellular layout should demonstrate the idea of connected flow.
To be able to utilize a Kaizen event effectively, it is imperative for facilitators to know and understand the issues for which it is to be used. It is not the be all and end all of improvement, but by following the procedures religiously, it can enable achievable and sustainable developments to any company.
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