As we continue our discovery of Lean tools in this month’s blogs, another great tool/concept we want to introduce you to is kaizen. Kaizen is a Japanese word that literally means “good change” or “continuous improvement.” In Japanese business philosophy, it is rapid improvement processes.
Kaizen is the building block of all lean methods. Kaizen focuses on eliminating waste, improving productivity, and achieving sustained continuous improvement. The philosophy behind kaizen is that small, incremental changes routinely applied and sustained over time result in significant improvements. The idea is to involve workers from all functions and at all levels in the organization.
Rapid continous improvement processes require that employees are empowered to identify and solve problems on their own. Thus to successfully implement kaizen improvements, a company must first embrace a culture of worker autonomy. There are also different ways of implementing kaizen. Lean philosophy recognizes that companies need to adapt Lean tools to what works best for each organization. I want to share with you how we implemented kaizen here at Dion.
At Dion we have a rapid continuous improvement program in place called the “Quick Kaizen Program.” All employees are encouraged to be on the lookout for ways to improve their processes and eliminate Lean wastes (i.e. unnecessary motion, unnecessary processes, defects, waiting, overproduction, excess inventory, transportation, or underutilized employee potential) in their work environments. These don’t have to be “mountain moving” improvements. Many are just simple “fix what bugs you” type changes.
Employees are then asked to submit the details of their improvements online at least once a quarter (although many submit more) and employee participation in the Quick Kaizen Program is monitored as part of our Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
It took us a number of years to get employees onboard, and to get them in the mindset to look for, and act on, ways of improving their job routines and work environment. But now, almost all employees improve multiple aspects of their daily tasks every quarter, which has resulted in not just DOLLARS SAVED, but many hours of TIME SAVED - and most importantly for our employees, SAVINGS IN FRUSTRATION (from not having to repair defective pieces, to not having to wait for work-in-process or information). Simple modifications to processes, or the layout of a department or desk set-up, have ripple effects throughout the company.
A big SIDE BENEFIT of this program is EMPLOYEE PRIDE. As employees share their improvements with their co-workers, they take greater ownership of their work. These same improvement ideas are then used in other departments, and one idea sparks another, and another. It really changes the mindset of how employees go about their day. Instead of just completing routine tasks day in and day out, employees are empowered to identify problems and are rewarded for the improvements they make. Not to mention, by “fixing what bugs you,” it makes work much more enjoyable! Might you consider implementing kaizen at your organization?
By Ann Condon, Marketing Manager
Ann Condon has been with Dion for 17 years, working in Dion’s Marketing and Business Development Department. Although this was her first position with a jewelry manufacturer, she has learned a lot over the years. Ann enjoys getting involved in “All Things Dion” from volunteering at the Dion Golf Tournament to being a part of the Dion Diamonds Relay for Life Team. She has quite a number of Dion event t-shirts to show for it!
Lean Thinking and Methods – Kaizen
By United State Environmental Protection Agency