Layered Process Audit is a quality tool designed specifically for manufacturing management. It is meant for auditing organizational processes ...
Kaizen - Understanding how it’s used to improve manufacturing performance continuously
By AMREP | Posted on January 03, 2024
Kaizen (Japanese: 改善) means improvement. Literally translating to 'change (kai) good (zen)', it is a Japanese concept that means continuously improving all aspects of one's personal and working life in small, incremental steps. It can be used in any work setting. Its use in manufacturing was first popularized when automotive manufacturers like Toyota started to adopt it in their operations. Their successful adoption of Kaizen - and the resulting transformative quality and supply chain outcomes - has led to Kaizen being part of a suite of continuous improvement tools for quality management in all manufacturing industries. It can often be combined with lean manufacturing strategies, e.g., Six Sigma.
In this article, we focus specifically on explaining how Kaizen is used in the manufacturing context.
- Kaizen in the Manufacturing World
- How are Kaizen activities initiated?
- Toyota and Kaizen - The Toyota Way
- Kaizen Case Study Example
- Getting started with Kaizen
Kaizen in the Manufacturing World
Manufacturing is a costly operation. Every organization aims to produce goods of the highest quality with less workforce, less inventory, minimum waste, fewer materials, and just the right quantities to meet demand.
Kaizen addresses this goal by calling for complex problems to be broken down into simple challenges and then improving them. Crucially, it requires management to continuously encourage and involve all personnel, from operators to managers, in the process. Small teams are created with individuals from different departments and levels, especially the operator level, so management can understand exactly what is occurring on the production line.
Some Kaizen focus areas are:
- Value-added and non-value-added work activities.
- Muda - reducing the seven waste classes - overproduction, delay, transportation, processing, inventory, wasted motion, and defective parts.
- Individual plant and machinery performance.
- Production line operations - bottlenecks, production yields, production process and tasks
- Inventory management, costs, control, and warehousing.
- Workplace organization - whether the workplace addresses 5S workplace organization principles. These are proper arrangement, orderliness, personal cleanliness, cleanup, and discipline.
- Just-in-time principles to produce the right units at the right quantities, at the right time, and with the right resources.
- Poka-yoke to detect or prevent errors.
- Team dynamics.
At its most fundamental level, Kaizen emphasizes a 'whole of organization' and team approach to solving business and manufacturing problems. It reminds management that pests can't be solved at the top alone - they must listen to the production floor. Any method can be used to solve a Kaizen problem e.g., root cause analysis, data collection and analysis, production process studies, Gemba walks (where managers go on a walkthrough on the factory floor to observe the actual work process), Pareto charts, 5 Whys.
How are Kaizen activities initiated?
It isn't necessary to wait until there is an actual problem. Kaizen can be used to anticipate manufacturing inefficiencies and preemptively address them. The whole idea of Kaizen is that it should be continuously implemented, so management should regularly run Kaizen studies. The format is highly open and can take place as follows:
- Small projects at the team or work cell level.
- Managers with team members run more significant initiatives.
- Inter-departmental studies are run by managers and team members from different teams.
- Focus group to address a specific problem.
- Large organization study involving all staff.
As stated, Kaizen is about creating a business culture rather than prescribing a specific manufacturing approach.
Toyota and Kaizen - The Toyota Way
Toyota is always mentioned together with Kaizen. That's because they made Kaizen one of the core principles of the Toyota Production System. This system emphasizes the complete elimination of all waste while pursuing the most efficient production methods and making products just in time to meet demand. When they first developed this system, the industry's standard manufacturing practice was to produce goods in quantities that may not match demand. This meant that manufacturers would carry lots of inventory and would face great product waste.
The Toyota Production System has two core principles to address this challenge. One, a machine must come to a safe stop whenever there is an abnormality so that no more defective goods are created. Second, human engineers carefully build each new line by hand to precise standards and use Kaizen to steadily simplify its operations.
This method put Toyota far ahead of its competitors. Today, the Toyota method is regarded as one of the best practices in manufacturing.
Kaizen Case Study Example
Here's an example of Kaizen being used to identify productivity improvements to create cost savings.
A furniture manufacturer needed to identify cost savings throughout its business so that it could navigate through an extremely competitive market and tighten consumer demand. It did Kaizen studies in all its production departments, e.g.injection molding, sewing, gluing, assembly, packaging, and CNC cutting. The management then decided they should involve their furniture design team in the discussions with the production floor as well. It emerged that the furniture designs were not the most straightforward and created some process complexities, which led to increased costs. The product designers realized that simplifying the furniture designs and making them more geometric and modular could reduce the number of production steps. This would lead to less packaging being used and result in some more cost savings.
Getting started with Kaizen
It doesn't matter whether your organization is big or small. Kaizen can be used anytime, anywhere, and by anyone. All that it needs is a willingness to create a culture of continuous improvement and always encourage interdisciplinary discussions that involve every organizational level.
AMREP Supplier Management Services has a team of lean manufacturing professionals who can help you with developing Kaizen studies and remedial actions. Contact us to learn more!
Don't Forget to Share This Post
A process audit checklist is a tool that helps you to evaluate the performance and compliance of a process against a set of standards or criteria...
VDA 6.3, an acronym for Verband der Automobilindustrie (German Association of the Automotive Industry), sets the stage for a meticulous examination ...