6 important steps can be defined in the Lean Manufacturing Process.

  • understand customer value: the value of a product is defined solely by the customer
  • map the value stream: describes the flow of material and information through the production system
  • implement flow: linking of manual and machine operations
  • let customers pull: customer demand drives the manufacturing process
  • implement lean manufacturing tools: 5S, visual management, SMED, standardized work, TPM etc.
  • improve continuously

In this article, we will talk about the 6th step: continuous improvement or Kaizen.

Kaizen is composed of 2 Japanese words: “Kai“, which means “To Change“, and “Zen“, which means “Make Better“.

There are 2 versions of Kaizen: Continuous Improvement, and Kaizen Blitz (or Event).

1. Kaizen continuous improvement continuously makes small improvements in processes, and focuses on the overall value stream.

The underlying philosophy is that there is always room for improvement, and a culture of continuously becoming better is created.

Kaizen Continuous Improvements are carried out by multifunctional teams.

Value Stream, Current State and Future State Maps are used as roadmaps.

The main benefits are:

  • overall value stream improvement
  • improved communication
  • mutual respect
  • shared responsibility

2. A Kaizen Blitz (or event) focuses on individual processes, and tries to improve them in a short fixed time frame, typically 4 to 5 days.

During this time, a cross-functioning group of managers and employees work together as a result-oriented team.

This is a typical Kaizen Blitz agenda:

  • day 1: training (lean concepts, Kaizen, improvement tools)
  • day 2: observing the process, brainstorming, data gathering
  • day 3: solution development, start implementation
  • day 4: implementation and standardization
  • day 5: assessment of obtained results

The specific Kaizen Blitz benefits are:

  • immediate results
  • other improvement opportunities are discovered

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