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What's Kaizen And Why Does It Matter?

Kaizen is a Japanese term that represents a philosophy of continuous improvement. The word "kaizen" is composed of two characters: "kai," which means to change, and "zen," which means good. Together, the word kaizen means "to change for the better."

orange robot arm

Kaizen is a daily habit. This is why kaizen is

often referred to as "small step" or "continuous improvement." One of the key elements of kaizen is to "fix what bugs you." This means that it's important to focus on the areas that are causing problems or inefficiencies, rather than trying to improve everything at once. Make sure that your team knows that they are encouraged to identify and fix what bugs them. By addressing the most pressing issues, it's possible to make a real difference in the short-term and benefit from the compounding effects of small improvements. Instead of rebuilding a process from the ground up and using many resources, consider implementing small adjustments to bring the process to its highest level.

Kaizen is not all about speed. Kaizen is about quality. Faster is not always better. Pushing production faster can cause team member burnout, product defects, and safety hazards. If you

can't do something faster, you should focus on doing it more effectively.

PDCA cycle

The Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA) cycle is often used in kaizen. This cycle is designed to help you identify problems, develop solutions, implement changes, and evaluate the results. By following this cycle, you can be confident that your improvements are well-planned and that you're able to measure their effectiveness.

  1. Plan: What problem do we need to solve, and do we have adequate resources? What metrics will we use to measure success?

  2. Do: Implement the plan, starting on a small scale.

  3. Check: Did the plan actually work according to the metrics? Were additional problems uncovered that need to be addressed?

  4. Act: If the plan worked, continue implementation on a larger scale. If not, return to the plan step.

For effective kaizen practice, it's important to make sure that improvements are publicized so that everyone can benefit. Incentivize kaizen to compound its effectiveness.

Examples of Kaizen Implementation at Wasco

team at a table
  • Team members on all levels know that they are empowered to implement continuous improvement.

  • To encourage ongoing team and character development, leadership hosts a discussion-based book club.

  • 3S, a derivative of 5S, (learn more here), is encouraged and incentivized for the whole team. Improvements are publicized and rewarded.

  • Near misses in manufacturing processes are reported and quickly prevented in the future.

For further reading and to give credit where it's due:


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