KAIZEN – A management application that remain actual

Based on the corporate philosophy of ‘customer first’ and ‘quality first’ since its founding, Toyota Motor Co., Ltd won the Deming Application Prize in 1965 and the Japan Quality Control Award in 1970, following the introduction of statistical quality control (SQC) in 1949, and has conducted Total Quality Management (TQM) based on the unchanging principles of ‘customer first’, Kaizen, and ‘total participation’.

In addition since the launch of the Creative Idea Suggestion System in 1951, the number of suggestions has steadily increased, and the system has supported flexible responses to changes that involve monozukuri (conscientious manufacturing), making substantial contributions to the company’s development.

As a result, the basic concepts of TQM and problem solving as well as kaizen through creative innovation spread throughout the company and took root, contributing to higher product quality and work quality at all levels and ranks and improving the vitality of individuals and organizations. The philosophy of Kaizen is one of Toyota’s core values. It means ‘continuous improvement’. The result is not perfect but there is always improvement at the process.


The concept of Kaizen began to be formed and it took off in the 1950s. According to Masaaki Imai, the father of Kaizen strategy, it is the most important concept of Japanese management – the key of Japanese business success.  In Japanese, Kaizen means “small, incremental, continuous improvement”, and the English translation is “continuous or continual improvement”. Kaizen is a philosophy that focuses both on the process and the results.

The spirit of Kaizen is all about achieving improvement by taking small steps instead of drastic, rigorous changes. It involves setting and continual improving standards without large capital investments. The objectives of Kaizen include eliminating waste, or activities that add cost but value, just-in-time delivery, production load leveling of amount and types, standardized work, paced moving lines and right-sized equipment. Basically, Kaizen takes processes, system, products, and services apart then rebuilds them in a better way. Kaizen goes hand-in-hand with that of total quality control.


The Philosophy of Kaizen

The foundation of the Kaizen management consists of 5 founding elements:

  1. Teamwork, in which everyone’s opinion is valued and considered, involving their active participation in the form of suggestion aimed at continuous improvement, even when a system appears to be functioning adequately.
  2. Personal discipline, every employee from upper management to the cleaning crew is a system on making changes anywhere that improvements can be made.
  3. Improved morale, providing the training, materials and supervision that is needed for employees to achieve higher standards and maintain their ability to meet those standards on an on-going basis.
  4. Quality circle, should have a common objective of working for the success of their project in the area being allocated to them. The following are suggested steps in forming a quality circle:
  • Inform staff of the Kaizen activities
  • Explain the concept and advantages of Kaizen activities
  • Divide the staff into small groups – quality circles
  • Discuss & analyse problems identified in each area by quality circles
  • Recommend possible solutions by quality circles
  • Prepare implementation plans
  • Write a proposal in implementing plans
  • All quality circles to meet twice a year to present progress of Kaizen activities
  • Reward quality circles with the best effort in achieving their objectives
  1. Suggestions for improvement, taking action to generate suggestions then implementing productive ideas as soon as possible.


Principles of Kaizen

Kaizen is often present the form of guidelines:

  1. Improve everything continuously.
  2. Think of how to do it, nit why it cannot be done.
  3. Do not make excuses. Start by questioning current practices.
  4. Do not seek perfection. Do it right away even if it will only achieve 50% of target.
  5. If you make a mistake, correct it right away.
  6. Throw wisdom at a problem, not money.
  7. Ask ‘WHY?’ five times and seek root causes.
  8. Seek the wisdom of ten people rather than the knowledge of one.
  9. Don’t ask workers to leave their brains at the factory gate.
  10. Remember that improvement has no limits. Never stop trying to improve.


The 5W and 1H of Kaizen

3Mu’sMuda, Mura, and Muri are three Japanese words that roughly translate into waste (no adding value)

Muda refers to waste in activities within processes and not really waste in its physical form. People activities, it costs money to perform, consumes resources, but add no value.

Mura in term of business/process improvement. This system is designed to maximize productivity by minimizing storage overhead.

Muri means avoidable physical strain/burden on people and machines or equipment at work.

Kaizen umbrella

The philosophy of Kaizen umbrella is a set of methods and approaches which are:

  • Customer orientation, fulfilling the customer needs is our main objective.
  • Total Quality Control, statistical process control and other statistical tools are necessary to understand the process.
  • Robotics and automation, automation can help, but it’s not the ultimate solution in every problem.
  • Quality circles, engage your employees.
  • Suggestion system, everyone can suggest a change, even if he/she doesn’t work in the process.
  • Discipline in workplace means 5S method everywhere.
  • Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) allows to maximize performance of production.
  • Kanban methodology smooths the production processes.
  • Just in time (JIT) smooths cooperation with business partners.
  • Quality improvement is the key to success.
  • Zero defects is a concept of ultimate improvement.
  • Small-group activities help enhance teamwork.
  • Cooperative relations between managers and employees improve information flow.
  • Productivity improvement is the effect of the program.
  • New product development is required to keep us in the business.


7 types of wastes in work place

t types of waste in work place

Gemba Kaizen

Genba or gemba is a Japanese term meaning “the real place”. In lean manufacturing, the idea of gemba is that the problems are visible and the best improvement ideas will come from going to the gemba (the factory floor in manufacturing). The gemba walk is an activity that takes lean management to the front lines to look for waste and opportunities to practice gemba kaizen, or practical shop floor improvement.

The term gemba, in international practice, became widely known after publications about the Toyota quality management system. In practice, if a problem occurs, the engineers must go to the source to understand the full impact of the problem, gathering data from all sources. Japanese decision-making principle differs from a traditional american management approach where decisions are typically made remotely.

Gembutsu Kaizen

Gembutsu means the unconformable physical/touchable element (out of order equipment, scrap). This is Japanese mindset teaching that when there is a problem somewhere, one should get as close to it as possible before proposing a solution.

By observing the actual process at the actual place, the problem solver is able to obtain actual data. This effort will allow for a decision base on facts, instead of relying on second hand information.

In practice, this result in short office meetings, complete on the shop floor with the brunt of works. Gembutsu cover three real thing which are:

  1. The actual place of work, shop floor or gemba.
  2. The actual product or gembutsu.
  3. The real fact and data or jujitsu.



The five golden rules of the Kaizen

The five golden rules of the Kaizen management as describe below:

  • When a problem first occurs, go to gemba
  • Check gembutsu, unconformable product
  • Take temporary measure on the spot
  • Find the main cause (use the five WHY? Question)
  • Standardize to prevent reoccurrence



The five steps of good maintenance – 5S

In Japanese, 5S is the short form of five words which present the concept of good maintenance.

The definitions and significance of the five words are given below:

  • SEIRI – Sorting – making the difference between necessary and useless things in GEMBA, giving up the useless ones.
  • SEITON – Ordering/Arrangement – the ordering of all the items after SEIRI.
  • SEISO – Cleaning and disturbance detection – the working areas/equipments will be clean.
  • SEIKETSU – Standardizing– the extension of the cleaning concept to each individual alongside with the continuous practice of the three steps 3S.
  • SHITSUKE – Disciplining – self-discipline and involve in the 5S actions through standard application.




The KAIZEN principles presumes a practical approach and low costs of improvement. The Kaizen management system is based on the continuous loss reduction by means of methods that do not rely on investments, but on the improvement of the processes and the employees’ performance. According to the Kaizen principles, we must be sure that, when we take an action, our action will go on in the best possible way and is not merely an intermediate action to generate a temporary result.


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