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The Gold Mine

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Lean Manufacturing
18 November 2012

The Benefits of Implementing Kaizen and Measuring its Success

Abstract This paper serves as a literature review of kaizen. Points of interest include its origins, how it is different from innovation, its benefits, and its implementation. Difficulties of implementing kaizen are addressed briefly.
Standardization and sustainability may just be the most difficult elements of the kaizen process. However, they are perhaps the most important aspects of kaizen, yet they are sometimes overlooked. This can lead to failed kaizen attempts even as severe as reverting back to the old, supposedly improved upon standards.
A particular research program looked at inputs to kaizen events and how they affect the outcome of the events. It emphasizes the importance of recognizing failure and using that feedback to improve the effectiveness of the kaizen event initiative. This research program is also referenced in this paper.

Introduction After World War II, the United States felt it could benefit from assisting the Japanese economy. The United States sent those who contributed to American businesses during the war to act as advisors to Japanese businesses, one of whom was Dr. W. Edwards Deming. Deming’s ideas that made the Japanese increasingly competitive came to be known as kaizen (Maurer 9-10).

What is Kaizen? Dr. Deming’s ideas that became known as kaizen included reduction of waste, respect for workers, and service to the customer (Maurer 9). Kaizen is a Japanese term that is commonly interpreted as continuous improvement. Literally translated, it means “good change”; “kai” meaning change and “zen” meaning good (Farris 19; Khan 177). Kaizen is the philosophy that we set standards and then continually improve on those standards (Khan 178).
This supports Deming’s Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle (see Figure 1). In the “plan” phase, a target for improvement is set. The plan is implemented in the “do” phase followed by controlling for effective performance of the plan in the “check” phase. Once the new process is standardized in the “act” phase, the standards can be raised and the PDCA cycle repeated (Smadi 204; Karkoszka and Honorowicz 198).

Figure 1: The Continuous Improvement (PDCA) Cycle and Standardizaiton

Source: (T. Devall, personal communication, October 29, 2012)

Innovation versus Kaizen Innovation is a Western philosophy that is vastly different from kaizen. It is a dramatic change in a short period of time that usually consumes a multitude of resources in search for the latest technologies, state-of-the-art tools, and specialists not directly connected with the process. It can be fast and result in new products, creative solutions, and vigorous organizations (Maurer 5-6; Karkoszka and Honorowicz 199; Kr. 123). Unfortunately, there is great risk associated with innovation. Because so many resources can be invested in it, when innovation fails, it has the potential to destroy an entire organization (Maurer 6). On the other hand, kaizen consists of taking small, doable steps towards improvement (Maurer 7). It is a lot less expensive because kaizen encourages participants to “make do” with the currently available resources (Maurer 9). It has two elements: improvement of the existing condition and continuity – maintaining the current standard (Kr. 121; Karkoszka and Honorowicz 198). There is a lot less risk associated with kaizen because of its cumulative nature. Single steps seem useless, but continuing to make those small steps will eventually get you to where you need to be (Maurer 18).

Table 1: The comparison of basic features of kaizen and innovation.

Source: (Karkoszka and Honorowicz 200)

Table 1 shows the differences between kaizen and innovation. Karkoszka and Honorowicz (199) suggest that the correct mix of kaizen and innovation leads to the biggest effects and benefits.

Kaizen versus Kaizen Events A kaizen event is much like kaizen: low cost, incremental improvements, and using process improvement tools (Farris 19). Kaizen, however, focuses on small scale improvements at the individual or group level. These type of improvements usually happen over time (Manos 47). A kaizen event is typically a larger scale type of improvement. It uses a team based approach and lasts on average three to five days. Change tends to happen a little more rapidly and is usually themed towards improvement in a single area (Manos 47). Kaizen events also have added benefits which are discussed in the next section. Table 2 shows a comparison amongst kaizen, kaizen events, and traditional improvements such as innovation.

Table 2: Kaizen, Kaizen Events and Traditional Improvements

Source: (Manos 47)

Benefits of Kaizen Kaizen encourages involvement at all levels of the organization (Farris 19). It doesn’t limit creativity to “that’s the way we’ve always done it” (Manos 47). Problems are tackled at the source, producing long-lasting results (Khan 181). Some quantitative benefits of kaizen include shorter lead times, less inventory, higher yield, and less manpower needed to complete the tasks. These all ultimately lead to monetary savings for the company (Manos 47). Safety, Quality, Delivery and Cost (SQDC) metrics are usually improved as a result of kaizen (Khan 181). Kaizen is commonly used for quality improvement (Karkoszka and Honorowicz 198).
Qualitative benefits, such as team member morale, can be just as important as the quantitative results, but can also be more difficult to measure (Manos 48). Khan (181) even suggests that customer satisfaction and job satisfaction, communications, and even employee retention can be improved through kaizen. Kr. (121) gives some other qualitative benefits for kaizen: employee empowerment, self-discipline, and recognition. Maurer (20) states that kaizen can help boost morale, contain costs, improve quality, develop new products and services, increase sales, and reduce health-care expenses. Kaizen event benefits go a step further. With kaizen events, there are added advantages of time, teamwork, and proof. Kaizen events have a scheduled time to get a team together. Working on a team can improve attitudes and increase willingness to participate. For the results-oriented worker, these events also allow for immediate feedback in the form of results (Manos 48). Although kaizen improvements are small and incremental, the kaizen process brings about dramatic results over time (Kr. 120; Khan 181).

Implementing Kaizen Kaizen efforts should take place in the Gemba. In simplest terms, the Gemba is the workplace – the place where value-added activities take place. (Some managers receive only secondary information because they prefer to work in their offices instead of seeing first-hand what goes on in the Gemba.) (Kr. 122). Three elements are necessary for kaizen: housekeeping, waste elimination, and standardization. Good housekeeping leads to self-discipline, waste elimination is a good way to improve productivity and reduce operating costs, and standardization can help ensure quality (Kr. 123).
Vineet Kr. (125) offers ten guidelines for using kaizen: * Discard conventional fixed ideas. * Think of how to do it, not why it cannot be done. * Do not make excuses. Start by questioning current practices. * Do not seek perfection. Do it right away, even if for only 50% of target. * If you make a mistake, correct it right away. * Do not spend money for kaizen. * Use your wisdom. Wisdom is brought out when faced with hardship. * Ask “Why?” five times and seek root causes. * Seek the wisdom of ten people, rather than the knowledge of one. * Kaizen ideas are infinite due to continuous improvement.
Karkoszka and Honorowicz (198) offer a very similar version of these guidelines. These guidelines support the idea that and open mind helps to facilitate kaizen. Karkoszka and Honorowicz (198) also list the process of the kaizen method as follows: * Define improvement area. * Analyze and select key problem. * Identify cause of improvement. * Plan remedial center measures. * Implement the improving project. * Measure, analyze, and compare results. * Standardize.

There are many tools that can be used to achieve kaizen. These tools include, but are not limited to, the 5 whys, 5S – sort, set in order, shine, standardize, and sustain (or 6S, adding safety), 7 types of waste (defects, overproduction, waiting, transportation, inventory, motion, and excess processing), 7 quality tools, jidoka, and poka-yoke (Karkoszka and Honorowicz 199).

The Difficulties of Kaizen The tools of kaizen are very simplistic methods designed to be able to produce the types of results mentioned above. Getting people to understand and accept the philosophy of kaizen is typically the more challenging part (Manos 47). Many companies, especially Western companies, lack discipline. Discipline can be achieved through the proper implementation of 5S Without discipline, however, there will be no standardization. (Karkoszka and Honorowicz 199). “Where there is no standard, there can be no kaizen” (Taiichi Ohno). Figure 2 shows the relationship amongst the 5S principles.

Sustaining Kaizen
In order to sustain the improvements made during the kaizen process, the company must do the following: * Standardize processes to the new, improved level. * Train everyone involved to the new standard. * Monitor the results over time. * Secure commitment of management and assign ownership to maintain and improve the gains (Manos 48).

Continuous improvement requires a serious commitment because it changes the mindset of the workforce (Manos 48; Kr. 125).

Figure 2: 5S Structure

Source: (Karkoszka and Honorowicz 199)

Less Successful Kaizen Events Failed kaizen events can be the result of falsification of results or not standardizing a new process. There is also the possibility of a lack of discipline in the organization. These failed events should be examined to determine countermeasures to ensure that the same type of failure does not recur (Manos 48; Kr. 123). A case study of a less successful kaizen event revealed how the effectiveness of different kaizen event inputs affected its outcome (Farris, Van Aken, Doolen, and Worley). Figure 3 shows the incomes and outcomes used in this research.

Figure 3: Research Model for Initial Outcomes and Variables Studied in Research on Initial

Source: (Farris, Van Aken, Doolen, and Worley 11-12)
The research found that, in this particular case study, the method used to communicate the goals of the team during the event was inadequate. This resulted in goal clarity not being optimal. The team also felt that they lacked management support. The team did not feel like their solution would be implemented after the event. The third factor that caused the event to be unsuccessful was team autonomy. It was very limited causing the team to feel as though they had no authority to impact change (Farris, Van Aken, Doolen, and Worley 17).

Conclusion Kaizen is a very simplistic approach to problem solving. It allows for very manageable, low-risk changes to be made that will eventually accumulate to have a real impact on the overall goal of the improvement efforts. Planning, however, is a very important part of the kaizen process because it will impact on the overall effectiveness of the efforts.

Works Cited
Farris, Jennifer A.. "An Empirical Investigation of Kaizen Event Effectiveness: Outcomes and Critical Success Factors." Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Nov. 2012. <>.
Farris, Jennifer A., Eileen M. Van Aken, Toni L. Doolen, and June Worley. "Learning From Less Successful Kaizen Events: A Case Study." Engineering Management Journal 20.3 (2008): 10-20. Academic Search Premier. Web. 8 Nov. 2012.
Karkoszka, T., and J. Honorowicz. "Kaizen philosophy a manner of continuous improvement of processes and products." Journal of Achievements in Materials and Manufacturing Engineering 35.2 (2009): 197-203. Journal of Achievements in Materials and Manufacturing Engineering. Web. 8 Nov. 2012.
Khan, Imran Ahmad. "Kaizen: The Japanese Strategy for Continuous Improvement." VSRD Internation Jornal of Business & Management Research 1.3 (2011): 177-184. Print.
Kr., Vineet. "An Overview of Kaizen Concept." VSRD International Journal of Mechanical, Automobile & Production Engineering 1.3 (2011): 120-125. VSRD International Journal of Mechanical, Automobile & Production Engineering. Web. 8 Nov. 2012.
Manos, Anthony. "The Benefits of Kaizen and Kaizen Events." Quality Process 40.2 (2007): 47-48. Academic Search Premier. Web. 8 Nov. 2012.
Maurer, Robert. "A Swift Introduction to Kaizen." The spirit of kaizen: creating lasting excellence one small step at a time. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2013. 1-20. Print.

Smadi, Sami Al. "Kaizen strategy and the drive for competitiveness: challenges and opportunities." Competitiveness Review 19.3 (2009): 203-211. Academic Search Premier. Web. 8 Nov. 2012.…...

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