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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Tools for an Entrepreneurs tool box

Over the next few days I will be giving a short introduction to specific tools for your toolbox, these may not be applicable now but they will be helpful when the "tough get's going", Today's tool, is an concept used in many large scale manufacturing organizations, but can be used just as well in your garage or workshop, office or personal life,

Kaizen (改善, Japanese for "change for the better" or "improvement"; the English translation is "continuous improvement" or "continual improvement").
In the context of this article, Kaizen refers to a workplace 'quality' strategy and is often associated with the Toyota Production System and related to various quality-control systems, including methods of W. Edwards Deming.
Kaizen aims to eliminate waste (as defined by Joshua Isaac Walters "activities that add cost but do not add value"). It is often the case that this means "to take it apart and put back together in a better way." This is then followed by standardization of this 'better way' with others, through standardized work.

Kaizen is a daily activity whose purpose goes beyond simple productivity improvement. It is also a process that, when done correctly, humanizes the workplace, eliminates overly hard work (both mental and physical) "muri", and teaches people how to perform experiments on their work using the scientific method and how to learn to spot and eliminate waste in business processes.

To be most effective Kaizen must operate with three principles in place:
consider the process and the results (not results-only); systemic thinking of the whole process and not just that immediately in view (i.e. big picture, not solely the narrow view); and
a learning, non-judgmental, non-blaming (because blaming is wasteful) approach and intent.
People at all levels of an organization participate in kaizen, from the CEO down, as well as external stakeholders when applicable. The format for kaizen can be individual, suggestion system, small group, or large group. In Toyota it is usually a local improvement within a workstation or local area and involves a small group in improving their own work environment and productivity. This group is often guided through the Kaizen process by a line supervisor; sometimes this is the line supervisor's key role.
While Kaizen (in Toyota) usually delivers small improvements, the culture of continual aligned small improvements and standardisation yields large results in the form of compound productivity improvement. Hence the English translation of Kaizen can be: "continuous improvement", or "continual improvement."

This philosophy differs from the "command-and-control" improvement programs of the mid-twentieth century. Kaizen methodology includes making changes and monitoring results, then adjusting. Large-scale pre-planning and extensive project scheduling are replaced by smaller experiments, which can be rapidly adapted as new improvements are suggested.

The Toyota Production System is known for kaizen, where all line personnel are expected to stop their moving production line in case of any abnormality and, along with their supervisor, suggest an improvement to resolve the abnormality which may initiate a kaizen.

The cycle of kaizen activity can be defined as:

standardize an operation ->

measure the standardized operation (find cycle time and amount of in-process inventory) ->

gauge measurements against requirements ->

innovate to meet requirements and increase productivity ->

standardize the new, improved operations ->

continue cycle ad infinitum.

This is also known as the Shewhart cycle, Deming cycle, or PDCA.
Masaaki Imai made the term famous in his book, Kaizen: The Key to Japan's Competitive Success.

Slainte Gordon Whyte

with help from Wiki

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