By Saeed Madjidi, Sr. Consultant
In Japanese, Kaizen means “quick improvement" or "change for the better," and refers to philosophy or practices that focus on continuous improvement of processes in manufacturing and business management. It is a focused team approach towards eliminating waste in operations. Kaizen is the core process of any Lean activities that involve key elements ranging from cross functional employees to analyze, decide, communicate, act, and measure. However, conducting a Kaizen project is very involved and requires high level of effort, coordination, and management support. It can have adverse effects on the outcome and sustainability if it is not performed carefully. Therefore, it is vital to develop a detailed plan that covers all aspects of a successful implementation.
So how do we start? Here are few recommendations:
- Designate a champion, preferably from middle managers that is fully empowered, responsible, and accountable for the entire event from start to finish.
- Develop pre- and post- Kaizen activities. Use a check list and communicate Kaizen events with all participants and anyone involved. For example, use a SMED Kaizen for a selected machine. The check list should include increase in production inventory four weeks prior to the start of Kaizen and availability of maintenance employees to support the Kaizen team.
- Identify cross functional teams and profile including vendors and suppliers where applicable to move decisions to the source of the work, support implementing difficult improvements and develop use of internal experts. This will expand efforts quicker throughout the plant and achieve faster results.
- Make sure that everyone considers participation as a priority and contributes as fully as possible. The team needs to carry out any given assignments.
- Understand the goal and the current situation. Make thorough observations and state the facts “as is”. The fundamental analysis tool is: the “5-why” chain.
- Make a team decision and involve everybody in the process. Decisions need to be made in terms of precise and measurable objectives.
- Solicit suggestions from others and accept the changes to be made. Communicate changes to all members.
- Quantify from start to end. Results are documented to allow for adjustments. Each result is compared to a situation prior to implementation. Achieved results become the basis for new improvement projects.
- Establish some rules during brainstorming - One person speaks at a time. Let everyone’s imagination go wild. Look at the problem from different angles. No idea is bad idea. Don’t use rank to influence the decision. Keep it to a minimum, though. Don’t get stuck on brainstorming.
- Allocate budget – meals, items to be purchased or fabricated during and after Kaizen. Having access and account to suppliers can potentially save cost and time.
- Have a Reward and Recognition program for the entire team. Involve the Human Resources Department to develop a program to reward employees and teams for proven results and achievement.
- Have monthly follow-up meetings with your Kaizen team to ensure the project’s successful implementations, maintain sustainability, and improve teamwork and communication.
- Develop a solid Continuous Improvement plan to ensure expansion of the Lean and Kaizen culture companywide.
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