Is Kaizen and 5S for Your Company?

What is this “Kaizen” thing?

The word Kaizen comes from the Japanese words “Kai” which means “change” and “Zen” which means “good” or “for the better”. “Kaizen” is used for “continuous improvement” and focuses on small changes that incrementally improve your business. It is not about huge capital improvements, but using what you have in a better way and eliminating wasteful steps. Kaizen is about doing your business the Smart Way.

Waste vs. Value

Wasteful steps or just “Waste” hides in our processes. For us to identify Waste in our processes, we need to identify which steps add Value to our product or service.

In the world of Kaizen there is a very strict definition about Value so that we can see the waste easier: the only time we are adding Value to a product or service is when we do an activity or a process step that causes a change to the physical state of the material in accordance to customer specification, for which the customer is willing to pay for. So, Waste refers to any activity or process step that consumes resources (labour, materials, space) but creates no value.

For example, while we prepare a machine for stamping metal, no value is added to the product and it is seen as waste. In this case it is a necessary waste, but the customer would not like to pay for that and it is our job to reduce the time it takes to do that activity. We are only creating value the moment we stamp the metal.

Another example could be the issuance of passports or other documentation. Value would only be generated while the passport or documentations are physically prepared. Before that, there are many wasteful (some necessary) steps, such as filling out of an application form, standing in line to hand it in, the pile of application forms that wait for processing, etc.

Kaizen let us focus on the waste steps which represent 95% of the time it takes to generate a product or service. Historically, every manager tried to make the process faster by improving the machines that generate value, such as making a faster stamping machine. With Kaizen we focus on the Waste so that we can shorten the lead times, improve the quality and reduce the costs:

  1. Overproduction: producing ahead of demand.
  2. Waiting: for next processing step.
  3. Unnecessary transport: of materials between processes.
  4. Unnecessary processing:of products, including multiple reviews/signatures,or different ways to produce the same product (no standardized work)
  5. Unnecessary inventories: more than the absolute minimum.
  6. Unnecessary movement: looking for parts/tools/prints/help.
  7. Production of defective parts

And 5 S?

The first step to Kaizen is to clean up and organise the work space. The principles applied here are referred to as the 5S originally translated from Japanese:

  1. SORT – Remove all items from workplace not needed for current production
  2. STRAIGHTEN or SET IN ORDER – Establish a place for everything near its point of use
  3. SCRUB or SHINE – Ensure everything in work area free of dust/dirt/grease/grime & all manufacturing by-products removed
  4. SCHEDULE – Define daily responsibilities for what is to be done & who is to do it to maintain/continually improve the first three S’s
  5. SCORE – Frequently measure how well each work area in the plant is performing with respect to the first four S’s (at least monthly)

5S provides a framework for sustaining an orderly and safe workplace. It help reduce waste such as searching for items and making scrap products with the wrong tools.

The Soft Side of Kaizen

All the learning about Waste and 5S is only good when we change the way we look at our people and see that they can also help identify improvements. Teamwork and communication is critical to make any initiative work.

The “Kaizen and 5S How-To” workshops

Huron Solutions developed a series of Operational Excellence / Lean / Kaizen and 5S How-To workshops to introduce companies to the concepts of Kaizen, Waste Free Processes, and 5S. For more information, click here.

Participants are introduced to the concepts through a series of activities including principles, case studies, practical examples, videos and hands-on simulation games. The importance of communication and teamwork is emphasized throughout the workshops.

Results from Participants

Companies who participated in these workshops reported amongst others the following actions taken as a result of the workshops:

  • Reorganised paper flow
  • Reorganised assembly areas
  • Cleaned work areas
  • Redesigned materials handling equipment
  • Improved lighting
  • Formed teams to look at tools, consumables
  • Organised warehouses by adding labeling and standardizing