In previous articles, we have talked about the continuous improvement of processes that must be carried out in any company to optimize their products and services. But this time, let’s focus on talking about a method that emerged in Japan during the 50s called: the Kaizen method.
Kaizen is a movement originated in Japan as a result of the need of the country to reach the level of the rest of western nations to be able to compete with them. Kaizen is the opposite of compliance and complacency. The Kaizen method is a management system that is oriented to the continuous improvement of processes in search of eradicating all those inefficiencies that make up a production system. The rapid technological advancement, the growing and fierce competition among organizations or the shortened life cycle of the products makes it inevitable that today’s companies concentrate on maximizing quality with low production costs, as well as a shorter response time in the face of possible unforeseen events. And this is where the Japanese Kaizen system comes into play, which stands out for its simplicity and clear practical vision.
Cost reduction v1
Kaizen is made up of the words “kai” and “zen” that come to mean something like “change for the better” and deriving in the topic that concerns us today: the continuous improvement of processes. Kaizen stands out from the rest of the philosophy and management systems, since it can be applicable at a social level as well as at a business or corporate level. In the latter case, the Kaizen method is characterized by using a culture of global involvement of the entire company, from the upper executives of the board of directors to the lowest ranking workers.
The 5 S of the Kaizen method
For Kaizen to be effective, one more elements must come into play: the five S. The objective of the “five S’s” is to introduce order, as well as discipline in the workplace, and to contribute as much to the elimination of waste within the production system, how to improve the work of equipment maintenance and reduce work accidents. It is a process of “continuous improvement that involves everyone.”
So, the “five S’s” are:
Seiri: The first step is to distinguish between the necessary elements from those that are not in a productive system.
Seiton: We have to list all the elements that have been left behind after the Seiri. The Seiton leads to organize the necessary elements to reduce the time of search and effort.
Seiso: The S most important of all since it refers to the need to identify the problem and remedy. We must know all the strategies and processes in which the organization is immersed and in case of identifying an error you will have to find a solution.
Seiketsu: The company must have within its reach the necessary resources to promote a good environment and necessary competitiveness in the workforce. To be the best you must have the best work tools.
Shitsuke: Promote the idea of Kaizen and encourage commitment to “the five S”. These five points will not help if there is no commitment.
Basically, what the Kaizen method proposes is the elimination of all the waste that originates in a productive system and that we list in seven differentiated categories: defects, excess production, transport, waiting, inventories, movement and unnecessary processes. Thus, we focus on a model based on total perfection and continuous improvement of processes. Our system must be constantly improved, understanding the concept of Kaizen as a means or way forward, never as a final goal.
Some practical examples of the philosophy of production based on the Kaizen method have Japanese companies such as Toyota or Sony that since the 80s carry out a continuous improvement of production standards in search of what is called “zero defect”. This concept is aimed to identify in depth to an inadequate production until achieving a total absence of damage.