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What is Kaizen?

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what is kaizen Kaizen is a Japanese term that literally means improvement – improvement in your personal life and your working life. When a company adopts the kaizen model, it strives to improve its processes in small but meaningful ways, ultimately changing for the better. Kaizen is not just a one-time improvement, but rather a commitment to excellence by constantly testing and improving the work flow, day in and day out.

Kaizen was first introduced in the Toyota manufacturing plant in Japan in the early 1950s and it has since become one of the main reasons for the country’s economic success. In Japan, kaizen is a way of life in the workplace and includes every single person in the organization, from the office of the CEO all the way down to the shop apprentice. The Japanese take it very seriously, and for good reason. Kaizen has led them from being a defeated wartime nation to one of the strongest industrialized countries in the world.

Kaizen is a philosophy and a workplace methodology that allows everyone to take control of their work processes and improve them. Workers are considered the expert in their job and are trained to identify areas that could be improved and to spot smaller issues on a daily basis.

If you integrate the kaizen principles into your workplace, you will see noticeable improvements right away and great improvements in the long term. Although kaizen promotes small incremental improves, they add up over time. You will see improvements at the workstations, in the office, and in your employees.

Using kaizen in the facility is also a cost-effective strategy. Because the results come not from fancy innovation but from the creation of a workforce, the improvements are a result of low-cost changes that were easy to implement. Even if the change wasn’t necessarily a success, you won’t be out a great deal of money.

Kaizen and Lean

Although the kaizen mindset can be utilized in any workplace as a standalone strategy, it is also considered a foundational method for Lean manufacturing. Lean pushes organizations to eliminate wastes and streamline processes, but how? Kaizen is the answer! When workers are trained to identify areas of improvement and implement incremental changes, over time waste is dramatically reduced and processes are noticeably improved.

Utilizing kaizen and the continuous improvement mindset is also particularly effective when paired with other Lean tools like the PDCA cycle, 5S, and Gemba walks. Not only will it compliment the efforts already made with kaizen, it can make implementing these strategies much easier.

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