Kaizen is a Japanese business philosophy regarding continuous process improvement. Learn all about the world's most popular competitive strategy. Use Lumiform’s digital checklists to create a zero-waste environment.
Lumiform enables you to conduct digital inspections via app easier than ever before.
Get a kickstart with one of our +12000 ready-made and free checklists
What is Kaizen? The meaning of Kaizen is based on a set of principles that are designed to bring change. The term is composed of "Kai" (=improvement) and "Zen" (=for the better). The Kaizen-philosophy advocates small changes that build on each other, which in the long run should produce holistic improvement. It is a continuous process instead of one-time corrective actions.
In business, management and employees use the Kaizen approach as a tool to implement continuous improvement efforts in the workplace. In the manufacturing industry, they are popular methods to eliminate downtime in the form of defects, overproduction, waiting, unused talent, transportation, inventory, movement, and extra processing. This is also referred to as the 8 wastes in production. The tools are also used to optimise business processes for global competitiveness and are related to the 5S approach to an effective work environment .
Kaizen originally comes from Japanese manufacturing technology, just like Lean Manufacturing or Kanban did. After the Second World War, Kaizen was first implemented as a process at Toyota. Then, in the 1980s, Masaaki Imai introduced Kaizen worldwide as a method for corporate executives. Today, the method is practiced in a variety of industries and is firmly anchored in corporate concepts.
As Kaizen means "change for the better", the use of Kaizen tools leads to improved task efficiency as well as more effective communication between work areas, organizational levels, and teams. The use of mobile Kaizen tools helps cross-functional teams to more easily identify waste and instantly initiate action plans and updates.
Basically, there is always an untapped potential for improvement, which can be activated by using suitable Kaizen tools and used along side the PDCA method, among others.
Learning, understanding, and implementing the meaning of Kaizen can quickly become a challenge, especially for result-oriented companies whose success depends on long-term investments.
Companies use Kaizen form templates to gain further information about Kaizen practices and to continually improve their workflow. The following four principles are essential for Kaizen and help companies to internalize sustainable business procedures.
During the planning stage, the main focus is on developing a solution. First, identify the problem and evaluate the causes. Finally, problems based on the analysis can be precisely addressed through defined and planned goals. In the planning phase, the greatest attention to detail is required to see success later on.
In the second phase, the aim is to extensively test if the solution worked out in the first step. By testing, the occurrence of undesirable side effects can be ruled out. Now the actual implementation must be coordinated step by step. Ideally, the tasks should be delegated to a team of experts. Furthermore, the process and the results should be well documented.
This is about the evaluation of the Kaizen method. Are the solutions to the problems reasonable and efficient? If the defined solutions and goals are achieved, the method can be extended to other areas in a targeted and consistent manner.
When the desired goal(s) have been achieved, a standard for quality assurance should be implemented in the respective processes. If the desired result was not achieved, further corrective measures must be specified and the cyclic principle must be carried out again.
The Kaizen method is considered to be particularly difficult to implement because the management has to follow the steps of sustainable practice instead of initiating short-term measures for immediate results. However, there are relevant reasons for the use of Kaizen. In the following you will find 3 important advantages for the Kaizen mentality
A long-term commitment to continuous improvement is the ultimate goal of Kaizen. This requires, above all, the initiative of executives, management, and finally, employees. The Kaizen initiative should therefore start from the top and run through all facets of the company to achieve the so-called Kaizen mentality.
Improvement can be assessed when it takes place. To this end, managers should create an open environment, encourage employees to make contributions and suggestions, and then integrate them into the improvement process. The encouragement of employees increases motivation and promotes an independent efficiency-oriented way of working. If the company management and planning are constantly being reconsidered and questioned, employees will also be willing to adopt this mentality as their own and lead by example.
Identifying a problem is usually only half the battle. Because of this, it’s important to determine the basic cause of the problem rather than to spend energy tending to the byproducts of the original error. A comprehensive analysis of existing data and the experience of employees is particularly effective in this context.
The implementation of corrective measures should be coordinated. To this end, the responsible employees must be aware of the goals and the relevance of these measures for the overall corporate planning. The corrective actions should be small, realistic tasks rather than complex projects. If the employees are well informed about their work processes and have access to sufficient information, material, or responsible persons, then business operations will run more smoothly.
As soon as successes are achieved, they should be communicated and outstanding achievements should be rewarded. In addition, setbacks should be seen as opportunities to learn and, thus, should be made visible company-wide. This creates an all-round trusting, high-performance business team.
Continuous improvement is primarily characterrized by proactive solutions. Several methods deepen the Kaizen principle and support the long-term optimization process. Learn more about these practices here:
A Gemba Walk is performed by managers to learn or review exactly how a particular process works on site and to get input from employees for improvement suggestions. Gemba Walk checklists help to identify root causes for problem-based goal setting.
The 5S methodology is used for the efficient design of the workplace. The aim is to achieve a minimalist, resource-saving workflow. The extension of this practice is 6s Lean. In addition to an efficiency-determined work process, safety at the workplace is also controlled and optimized.
Also, Six Sigma is based on the Kaizen principle and aims for the highest level of qualitative work and optimization. The 6 steps, also called DMAIC cycle, are "Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Check"
Digital checklists allow you to easily implement and monitor continuous improvement efforts. The digital app guides you step by step through your checks or audits. You can document, analyze, and check work steps anytime and anywhere.
With automatic report generation, you always stay up to date with the latest developments and share them with the right people. Use the checklists as a useful Kaizen tool, which can be flexibly adapted to your company's needs, and start a new, more transparent, and efficient corporate communication today. Also benefit from the following advantages