In the Lean Manufacturing environment, Continuous Improvement is an important principle. The term used to convey the continuous improvement philosophy is Kaizen, Japanese for “improvement,” or “change for the better.”
We should always be striving for Kaizen and we should always be changing for the better. That’s what Lean is all about.
It means we can’t settle for “good enough,” or rest on our laurels once an improvement is made. While you can congratulate yourself for improving productivity 10 percent this year, you have to remember next year is a brand new year. Can you improve again?When you consider the PDCA Loop ― Plan, Do, Check, Adjust ― and understand its ongoing nature, you see that Kaizen is more than just a process. It’s a state of mind. We follow the PDCA Loop, because we are always in Kaizen.
The old saying, “change or die” should be “improve or die.”
But you don’t always need big changes to improve. Sometimes you need a lot of little changes. Little changes like providing extra training on a piece of equipment or even just moving a shelving unit because it’s a small obstacle in the path of the forklift drivers.
Striving for perfection is an ongoing process because we’re always following the PDCA Loop, we should always look for ways to improve.
Maybe we can improve with new equipment, new processes or even new technology. For you, maybe it’s a complete overhaul, in which you’re forced to drag everyone, kicking and screaming into the 21st century. (We see plenty of companies that are still hand wrapping their pallets, even though the machinery exists to bring improvement to their lives.)
Kaizen is for the entire organization, not just management. You need management leadership in the beginning, but the philosophy of Continuous Improvement, the mindset of Kaizen, needs to flow through the entire company.
Many of these ideas for improvement will come from the men and women working on the floor, not from the management. Floor employees are the ones who know they need extra training, or see that the shelving unit is in the way of the forklift. They see the little changes that can sometimes outperform the big changes.
If you can teach Kaizen to all your employees, and listen to their ideas, you can continue that pursuit for continuous improvement. Ultimately, that “change for the better” will mean you’re one step closer to perfection.
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Click here to read related blog: Use a PDCA Loop for Accomplishing Goals
This post was published on December 18, 2013 and updated on November 28, 2018.
December 18, 2013