In my brief spell working at a Japanese company i realized the importance Japanese give to Kaizen and 5S. My first reaction to these words was – What is it? Obviously, to Newbies it is new word in their vocabulary. But soon, i understood why they gave so much emphasis to it and how it was the key to their widely acclaimed competitive success.
This Covers understanding what Kaizen and 5S basically mean, how and when they are supposed to be practiced, how they are instrumental in their competitive success and the importance this receives from the management. After going through this, you might feel that it is very basic and similar to its other English counterparts but on further dissection it would be clear that these are simply varied derivations of each other.
UNDERSTANDING THE CONCEPTS
This is a Japanese word meaning continuous improvement, or literally “to change and make good”. Basically kaizen is for small improvements, but carried out on a continual basis and involve all people in the organization. The principle behind is that “a very large number of small improvements are more effective in an organizational environment than a few improvements of large value. This pillar is aimed at reducing losses in the workplace that affect our efficiencies. By using a detailed and thorough procedure we eliminate losses in a systematic method using various Kaizen tools. These activities are not limited to production areas and can be implemented in administrative areas as well.
Thus, Kaizen refers to philosophy or practices that focus upon continuous improvement of processes in manufacturing, engineering, supporting business processes, and management and is applied in various industries.
The Main elements of Kaizen Include
- Personal discipline
- Improved morale
- Quality circles
- Suggestions for improvement
The 5S Process, or simply “5S”, is a structured program to systematically achieve total organization, cleanliness, and standardization in the workplace. A well-organized workplace results in a safer, more efficient, and more productive operation. It boosts the morale of the workers, promoting a sense of pride in their work and ownership of their responsibilities.
SEIRI (Sort Out):- This means sorting and organizing the items as critical, important, frequently used items, useless, or items that are not need as of now. Important items should be kept for use nearby and items that are not be used in near future, should be stored in some place.
SEITION (Organize):- Each items has its own fixed place and should be placed back after usage at the same place.
SEISO (Shine the Workplace):- This involves cleaning the work place. It also takes care of the inspection required of the work place to make sure everything is as desired.
SEIKETSU (Standardization):- Employees has to discuss and decide on standards for keeping the work place / Machines / pathways neat and clean. These standards are implemented for whole organization and are tested / inspected randomly.
SHITSUKE (Self Discipline):- Considering 5S as a way of life and bring about self-discipline among the employees of the organization. This includes wearing badges, following work procedures, punctuality, dedication to the organization etc.
Kaizen and 5S in Japanese system includes both home and business life. They even include social activities. It is a concept that is applied in every aspect of a person’s life.
In business Kaizen encompasses many of the components of Japanese businesses that have been seen as a part of their success. Quality circles, automation, suggestion systems, just-in-time delivery, Kanban and 5S are all included within the Kaizen system of running a business.
KEY TO COMPETITIVE SUCCESS
Just as mentioned, 5S is an integral part of Kaizen and instrumental in making it a success. Kaizen involves every employee in making change–in most cases small, incremental changes. It focuses on identifying problems at their source, solving them at their source, and changing standards to ensure the problem stays solved. It’s not unusual for Kaizen to result in 25 to 30 suggestions per employee, per year, and to have over 90% of those implemented.
While in other organisations, the improvements are made only by the R&D subdivision, using Kaizen allows the people involved in the process (including the machine operators) to directly suggest the solution to their problem and apply them if the suggestion is deemed fit to use and improve productivity.
These continual small improvements add up to major benefits. They result in improved productivity, improved quality, better safety, faster delivery, lower costs, and greater customer satisfaction. On top of these benefits to the company, employees working in Kaizen-based companies generally find work to be easier and more enjoyable–resulting in higher employee moral and job satisfaction, and lower turn-over.
With every employee looking for ways to make improvements, you can expect results such as:
Kaizen Reduces Waste in areas such as inventory, waiting times, transportation, worker motion, employee skills, over production, excess quality and in processes.
Kaizen Improves space utilization, product quality, use of capital, communications, production capacity and employee retention.
Kaizen Provides immediate results. Instead of focusing on large, capital intensive improvements, Kaizen focuses on creative investments that continually solve large numbers of small problems. Large, capital projects and major changes will still be needed, and Kaizen will also improve the capital projects process, but the real power of Kaizen is in the on-going process of continually making small improvements that improve processes and reduce waste.
The Management uses these advantages and the company saves quite a bit from less investment in R&D of existing machinery. The Management tends to favour this so much that a one or two person team in each department is completely dedicated to proper execution of Kaizen and 5S.
These tools, Kaizen and 5S which were implemented after World War II, have been greatly influential in turning around the fate of many Japanese firms. These concepts have received several criticisms as well but on the whole have proven to be a key to worldwide success for many Japanese firms like Toyota, Sony, Honda and has led to acceptance from several Western firms as well.