Kaizen follows the philosophy of Masaaki Imai. Kaizen focuses on the improvements in the workplace. In Japanese, this is called the ‘Gemba’. The Kaizen-philosophy is based on a process of continuous improvement in small steps.

Large breakthrough projects like Lean and Six Sigma are, amongst other, applied in higher CIMM-levels. If every week a couple of small steps are visible, it creates a constant feeling of success.

“It is better to be 80% good today, than 100% in 6 months”.

(Masaaki Imai)

The idea behind this is that by realizing many small improvements, in the end, a large improvement is made. It is much easier for employees to adjust to low-key changes instead of handling large change. Typical for this kind of projects is eliminating waste and lowering cycle-time. Examples of Kaizen-events are:

● Shortening changeover time in production.
● Designing support tools to make something easier to carry out.
● Improving work instructions and with that preventing possible mistakes.
● Improving ergonomy and safety.
● Reducing of wait time and intermediate stocks.
● Implementing Kanban-racks to manage intermediate stocks.
● Searching and eliminating a problem.

Kaizen is about teamwork. Participating is voluntary, but not without commitment. It is a bottom-up approach and encourages every employee to contribute. As such Kaizen is an approach that is often connected to the concept continuous improvement. Kaizen-projects are carried out at the place where it happens: the ‘Gemba’. If problems show up, it is more obvious to go ‘to the Gemba’ instead of solving the problem from behind a desk or a meeting room.

Namely, the problem lies on the work floor. Problems in the workplace are most felt by employees on the work floor and much less by the employees at the office. Employees on the work floor often have great ideas for solving the problem since they are facing the problem daily. The only point is that managers often forget to involve them in coming up with ideas.

That is why Kaizen also is ‘Empowerment’, where the employees on the work floor have a certain freedom to solve problems independently. Kaizen events follow the PDCA-roadmap. The abbreviation PDCA stands for Plan-Do-Check-Act and is also called Deming or Shewhart circle.

Kaizen principles:

Kaizen-principle Description
Teamwork Ensure involvement of everyone
Personal discipline Follow the standard
Better moral Ensures good work environment
Quality circles Follow the PDCA-improvement cycle
Suggestion for improvements Be open minded to ideas and suggestions