Kaizen events are a key component of the production method known as lean manufacturing. Keep reading to learn more about kaizen events and their importance to engineering design.
What Is a Kaizen Event?
Let’s begin by drawing a clear distinction between kaizen and kaizen events.
The term “kaizen” is a Japanese word that can be translated as “positive change,” or “change for the good.”
Kaizen, or continuous improvement, is a foundational concept of lean production. It’s an approach that encompasses an entire organization and involves all workers.
More than a tool, kaizen is an overarching philosophy focused on eliminating waste and improving productivity.
A kaizen event, on the other hand, is not a continuous process because it takes place over a set number of days (usually a week).
During a kaizen event, part of a team gets together and focuses on an area or process that can be improved or made more efficient.
In the next section, we’ll describe what happens during a kaizen event, who participates in it, and what happens after a kaizen event.
What Are the Phases of a Kaizen Event?
Generally speaking, organizations are free to put their own spin on kaizen events to better adapt them to their culture and overall philosophy.
Regardless of the version, a kaizen event usually has three phases
- Phase 1: Planning and preparation. A target area is identified and a “waste elimination problem” is chosen as the focus of the kaizen event. For example, the target area may be accounting, and the waste elimination problem may be how to deal with slow-paying clients. Then a cross-functional team is assembled including members from the target area as well as members whose activities are adjacent to the chosen problem.
- Phase 2: Implementation. Team members are assigned roles gathering and analyzing information. Here, techniques like Five Whys and Value Streaming Mapping are used to identify the cause of the problem and the superfluous elements that are part of the targeted process. Then ideas for improvement are brainstormed among team members. The best ideas are identified and chosen for implementation.
- Phase 3: Follow-up. What makes kaizen events so effective is that they include follow-up activities to ensure that the changes are monitored and the improvements are documented. Follow-up events are usually scheduled 30 to 90 days after the initial event to assess the performance of the measures that were implemented.
Learn More About Engineering Design
Engineering design is a discipline full of interesting stories and bits of information. Below are some previous posts you can read to learn more about this fascinating topic.
- What is civil engineering design?
- What is the engineering design process?
- Do good design engineers make good project managers?
- 3 Reasons to choose a career in engineering design
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