According to kaizen philosophy, the improvement of systems, programs and people is a continuous, ongoing process. Kaizen originated as a Japanese business approach and the word translates to the phrase “change for the good” in English. The philosophy involves employees at all levels of both manufacturing and service organizations and creating a culture of ongoing refinement and optimization.
A kaizen blitz, also known as a kaizen event or kaizen activity, is a process improvement exercise performed by a team of employees in a limited timeframe. It’s designed to make quick and easy process improvements in a focused area.
Improvement tools employed in kaizens may include brainstorming, process mapping, value stream mapping, interviewing, check sheets, run charts, histograms, and Pareto charts. The goal is to develop quick, simple and sustainable solutions.
Kaizen events have the following characteristics:
- Teams are made up of employees dedicated to the project. Team members work in the process under study. Lean Six Sigma (LSS) practitioners may lead the team, conduct kaizen training, or act as an advisor/coach.
- The project is clearly defined and preliminary data has already been gathered. The team usually works from a value stream map.
- Implementation of solutions is immediate.
- Kaizens may last hours, days, or up to a week.
- Kaizen solutions are low risk and low cost.
Lean Six Sigma is a continuous improvement methodology that focuses on the elimination of waste and reduction of variation from manufacturing, service and design processes. The Lean methodology aims at reducing non-value activities and cycle times while creating value for customers. Six Sigma identifies and reduces variability, improving overall quality. Lean Six Sigma Certification can reduce your costs and help you retain and even gain more customers.
LSS prescribes an improvement process known as DMAIC (Define—Measure—Analyze—Improve—Control). However, its application is limited to improving existing processes. It doesn’t address the design of new products, services, or processes.
Kaizen events may stand alone or be incorporated into an LSS project incorporating the DMAIC approach.
Kaizen events may come at any stage of the LSS project. However, they are generally performed at the improvement stage. They may or may not be directly related to the overall LSS project goal.
How to conduct a Kaizen DMAIC
The kaizen described below is a sample four-day event. There are multiple ways to structure a kaizen blitz, however. Events with a smaller scope may only take hours to complete. The amount of kaizen training needed for such an event depends upon the experience of the team.
Define the kaizen project scope and objectives. Select and conduct kaizen training as applicable. Initiate project charter, which serves as both the kaizen plan and record of the event. Assemble and validate historical baseline data. Prepare for any needed training (either during or before event). Secure logistics.
Day 1: Measure
Opening meeting to brief team. Continue to deliver kaizen training, as applicable. Resolve questions about project charter and plan. Begin Measure phase by observing the process, conducting interviews, and collecting data. Preform a measuring system analysis (MSA) and obtain additional baseline data as necessary.
Day 2: Analyze
Begin Analyze phase (root cause analysis) to identify and verify root causes to the problem under study.
Day 3: Improve
Move into Improve phase to find and implement solutions.
Day 4: Control
Move into Control phase. Prepare applicable methods (procedures, error proofing, control plans, visual controls, training) to sustain the gains. Investigate other potential applications. Complete project charter. Prepare and deliver final results presentation to top management.
Kaizen leader helps to complete implementation and subsequent monitoring of solutions. Leader also follows up on other applications and closes out project.
Kaizen events can serve as a powerful piece of an organization’s overall improvement strategy. When performed properly with the LSS approach, they can deliver quick sustainable improvements while reducing costs and increasing customer satisfaction.
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