By improving standardized programs and processes, kaizen aims to eliminate waste and redundancies (lean manufacturing). Kaizen was first practiced in Japanese businesses after World War II, influenced in part by American business and quality-management teachers, and most notably as part of The Toyota Way. It has since spread throughout the world and has been applied to environments outside of business and productivity.
The Japanese word kaizen means 'change for better' (from 改 kai - change, revision; and 善 zen - virtue, goodness) with the inherent meaning of either 'continuous' or 'philosophy' in Japanese dictionaries and in everyday use. The word refers to any improvement, one-time or continuous, large or small, in the same sense as the English word improvement. However, given the common practice in Japan of labeling industrial or business improvement techniques with the word kaizen, particularly the practices spearheaded by Toyota, the word kaizen in English is typically applied to measures for implementing continuous improvement, especially those with a "Japanese philosophy". The discussion below focuses on such interpretations of the word, as frequently used in the context of modern management discussions. Two kaizen approaches have been distinguished:
Point kaizen is one of the most commonly implemented types of kaizen. It happens very quickly and usually without much planning. As soon as something is found broken or incorrect, quick and immediate measures are taken to correct the issues. These measures are generally small, isolated and easy to implement.; however, they can have a huge impact.
Examples of point kaizen include a shop inspection by a supervisor who finds broken materials or other small issues, and then asks the owner of the shop to perform a quick kaizen (5S) to rectify those issues, or a line worker who notices a potential improvement in efficiency by placing the materials needed in another order or closer to the production line in order to minimize downtime.
This is the next upper level of line kaizen, in that several lines are connected together. In modern terminologies, this can also be described as a value stream, where instead of traditional departments, the organization is structured into product lines or families and value streams. It can be visualized as changes or improvements made to one line being implemented to multiple other lines or processes.
Cube kaizen describes the situation where all the points of the planes are connected to each other and no point is disjointed from any other. This would resemble a situation where Lean has spread across the entire organization. Improvements are made up and down through the plane, or upstream or downstream, including the complete organization, suppliers and customers. This might require some changes in the standard business processes as well.
Kaizen is a daily process, the purpose of which goes beyond simple productivity improvement. It is also a process that, when done correctly, humanizes the workplace, eliminates overly hard work (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. In all, the process suggests a humanized approach to workers and to increasing productivity: "The idea is to nurture the company's people as much as it is to praise and encourage participation in kaizen activities." Successful implementation requires "the participation of workers in the improvement."People at all levels of an organization participate in kaizen, from the CEO down to janitorial staff, as well as external stakeholders when applicable. Kaizen is most commonly associated with manufacturing operations, as at Toyota, but has also been used in non-manufacturing environments. The format for kaizen can be individual, suggestion system, small group, or large group. At 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. Kaizen on a broad, cross-departmental scale in companies, generates total quality management, and frees human efforts through improving productivity using machines and computing power.
While kaizen (at Toyota) usually delivers small improvements, the culture of continual aligned small improvements and standardization yields large results in terms of overall improvement in productivity. This philosophy differs from the "command and control" improvement programs (e.g., Business Process Improvement) of the mid-20th 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.
In modern usage, it is designed to address a particular issue over the course of a week and is referred to as a "kaizen blitz" or "kaizen event". These are limited in scope, and issues that arise from them are typically used in later blitzes. A person who makes a large contribution in the successful implementation of kaizen during kaizen events is awarded the title of "Zenkai". In the 21st century, business consultants in various countries have engaged in widespread adoption and sharing of the kaizen framework as a way to help their clients restructure and refocus their business processes.
The Economic and Scientific Section (ESS) group was also tasked with improving Japanese management skills and Edgar McVoy was instrumental in bringing Lowell Mellen to Japan to properly install the Training Within Industry (TWI) programs in 1951. The ESS group had a training film to introduce TWI's three "J" programs: Job Instruction, Job Methods and Job Relations. Titled "Improvement in Four Steps" (Kaizen eno Yon Dankai), it thus introduced kaizen to Japan.
For the pioneering, introduction, and implementation of kaizen in Japan, the Emperor of Japan awarded the Order of the Sacred Treasure to Dr. Deming in 1960. Subsequently, the Union of Japanese Scientists and Engineers (JUSE) instituted the annual Deming Prizes for achievement in quality and dependability of products. On October 18, 1989, JUSE awarded the Deming Prize to Florida Power & Light Co. (FPL), based in the US, for its exceptional accomplishments in process and quality-control management, making it the first company outside Japan to win the Deming Prize.
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. This feature is called Jidoka or "autonomation".
In the Toyota Way Fieldbook, Liker and Meier discuss the kaizen blitz and kaizen burst (or kaizen event) approaches to continuous improvement. A kaizen blitz, or rapid improvement, is a focused activity on a particular process or activity. The basic concept is to identify and quickly remove waste. Another approach is that of the kaizen burst, a specific kaizen activity on a particular process in the value stream. Kaizen facilitators generally[weasel words] go through training and certification before attempting a kaizen project.
The five kaizen elements or principles are: know your customer, let it flow, go to gemba, empower people, and be transparent. People also sometimes ask what kaizen 5S refers to. It's a process often used in lean manufacturing and relates to five steps of improvement: Sort, Straighten, Sweep, Standardize, and Sustain. A 5S event follows each of these steps one day at a time."}},"@type": "Question","name": "What Is the Kaizen Method?","acceptedAnswer": "@type": "Answer","text": "It's a business philosophy with guiding principles and tools that seeks to involve all employees in the gradual and continuous improvement of various areas of a company. The kaizen method focuses on engaging employees and using teamwork to create a successful and enjoyable work environment.","@type": "Question","name": "What Is an Example of Kaizen?","acceptedAnswer": "@type": "Answer","text": "Toyota is a famous example of a company using kaizen to sustain its success. Another commonly known example of kaizen in action involves Ford Motor Company, which embraced kaizen to cut the time it took to complete various manufacturing processes.","@type": "Question","name": "What Are the Main Tools of Kaizen?","acceptedAnswer": "@type": "Answer","text": "The kaizen methodology uses different tools depending on the goal. For instance, the 5S tool is often used in lean manufacturing and to ensure that workplaces are efficient, productive, and safe. JIT and Kanban are used for inventory control. The five whys (what, when, where, why, and who) is a tool used to reveal the root cause of a problem. Value stream mapping is an analytic tool that is used to identify places to eliminate waste. Follow-up events are tools used to sustain improvements."]}]}] Investing Stocks Bonds Fixed Income Mutual Funds ETFs Options 401(k) Roth IRA Fundamental Analysis Technical Analysis Markets View All Simulator Login / Portfolio Trade Research My Games Leaderboard Economy Government Policy Monetary Policy Fiscal Policy View All Personal Finance Financial Literacy Retirement Budgeting Saving Taxes Home Ownership View All News Markets Companies Earnings Economy Crypto Personal Finance Government View All Reviews Best Online Brokers Best Life Insurance Companies Best CD Rates Best Savings Accounts Best Personal Loans Best Credit Repair Companies Best Mortgage Rates Best Auto Loan Rates Best Credit Cards View All Academy Investing for Beginners Trading for Beginners Become a Day Trader Technical Analysis All Investing Courses All Trading Courses View All TradeSearchSearchPlease fill out this field.SearchSearchPlease fill out this field.InvestingInvesting Stocks Bonds Fixed Income Mutual Funds ETFs Options 401(k) Roth IRA Fundamental Analysis Technical Analysis Markets View All SimulatorSimulator Login / Portfolio Trade Research My Games Leaderboard EconomyEconomy Government Policy Monetary Policy Fiscal Policy View All Personal FinancePersonal Finance Financial Literacy Retirement Budgeting Saving Taxes Home Ownership View All NewsNews Markets Companies Earnings Economy Crypto Personal Finance Government View All ReviewsReviews Best Online Brokers Best Life Insurance Companies Best CD Rates Best Savings Accounts Best Personal Loans Best Credit Repair Companies Best Mortgage Rates Best Auto Loan Rates Best Credit Cards View All AcademyAcademy Investing for Beginners Trading for Beginners Become a Day Trader Technical Analysis All Investing Courses All Trading Courses View All Financial Terms Newsletter About Us Follow Us Facebook Instagram LinkedIn TikTok Twitter YouTube Table of ContentsExpandTable of ContentsWhat Is Kaizen?Understanding KaizenHow Does Kaizen Work?Benefits of KaizenPDCA CycleJIT StrategyKaizen FAQsBusinessBusiness EssentialsKaizen: Understanding the Japanese Business PhilosophyByMarshall HargraveFull Bio LinkedIn Twitter Marshall Hargrave is a stock analyst and writer with 10+ years of experience covering stocks and markets, as well as analyzing and valuing companies.Learn about our editorial policiesUpdated July 09, 2022Reviewed by 041b061a72