Tips for a successful kaizen event

Kaizen is a Japanese word meaning “continuous improvement,” and it refers to the incremental steps taken to create a more efficient, optimized workplace. As the concept of kaizen has gained popularity in North America, many companies have started holding kaizen events to improve specific areas or processes, as Shoplogix’s Martin Boersema explains in this video.

What is a kaizen event?

The goal of a kaizen event is to make improvements to a particular area or process within a business. In the manufacturing sector, this involves a kaizen facilitator meeting with operators and supervisors, usually over a few days. The aim is to analyze the current process and identify potential improvements.

How to lead a successful kaizen event

If you’re facilitating a kaizen event, here are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Don’t try to solve the problem yourself.
    To understand the problem and identify the right solutions, speak with the people most familiar with the process you’re analyzing: the operators. Ask them what problems they deal with on the job every day. Their answers will help you determine the appropriate improvements.
  • Choose your team carefully.
    Most participants in your kaizen event should be directly involved in the process you’re reviewing. Include the operators, but also the supervisor, as they will be the one overseeing any changes you decide to make. It’s also a good idea to invite an employee who is not involved in the process—they can often provide a fresh perspective on the problem at hand.
  • Understand the company’s goals.
    As leader, you’re responsible for ensuring that any proposed changes are in line with the company’s strategic objectives. This means finding a balance between optimization and what the company needs. For instance, you might find a way for an assembly line to produce 300 parts per hour, but if only 200 parts per hour are required, this “improvement” may not be necessary.

How to handle reluctant participants

Some employees may be reluctant to participate in a kaizen event. They may feel that their work process is fine the way it is. Or, they may have reported problems with their work process in the past and feel frustrated that no one listened to them. They may think the kaizen event isn’t going to solve anything.

The best way to deal with reluctant employees is to talk with them on the shop floor. Ask them to walk you through their work process and what problems they have with it. If there’s room for improvement, it will most likely come to light during your discussion.

 

The key is to have these conversations at the worksite, not in a classroom. The kaizen event participants will be able to show you the challenges they struggle with, and you’ll get a more complete picture of the situation.

A common pitfall of kaizen events

Let’s say you lead a successful kaizen event that yields a list of useful improvements to be made and a plan for how to implement them. But then, weeks later, you discover that the work process has reverted to its former inefficient state. Why? It turns out that the manager wasn’t on board with the changes.

When leading a kaizen event, you must make sure the people in charge approve of the proposed changes. They will be the ones deciding whether to follow through on your recommendations, so be sure to take the time to explain how the changes will benefit them, their team, and the company as a whole.

The impact of a successful kaizen event

The improvements that come out of a kaizen event will ultimately lead to a better return on investment for the company. Small improvements (5S activities, for example) may not have a major impact on the bottom line in and of themselves, but over time, they add up.

For the employees, however, even small changes tend to have an immediate impact: suddenly, they have a solution to a problem they’ve been struggling with, in some cases for a long time. In this way, kaizen events often lead to happier, more engaged employees.

 

About Shoplogix

With its industry-leading smart factory platform, Shoplogix helps manufacturers reduce operating costs and maximize profitability by unlocking hidden production performance improvements. Headquartered in Oakville, Ontario, the company has an international presence, with offices around the globe.

 

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Flexpipe Modular industrial pipe racking system can help you with implementing continuous improvement principles. Your team’s creativity can result in a 10% increase in productivity per year. It has been a proven system for more than 50 years now.

See how the modular system can increase production efficiency by 25% in manufacturing processes at Hologic.

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Julien Depelteau - Chief Executive Officer

Julien is Flexpipe’s president and co-founder. He came upon lean manufacturing in 2006 and launched Flexpipe in 2010. His mission since then has been to introduce the modular system to new markets by making it affordable and accessible.