Kaizen is a Japanese business philosophy that focuses on gradually improving productivity by involving all employees and by making the work environment more efficient.
Kaizen translates to "change for the better" or "continuous improvement."
The small changes used in kaizen can involve quality control, just-in-time delivery, standardized work, the use of efficient equipment, and the elimination of waste.
Changes can come from any employee anytime and dont have to happen slowly, although kaizen recognizes that small changes now can have big future impacts.
Improvements generally follow the PDCA cycle format, which stands for "plan-do-check-act." The "plan" portion includes mapping out the changes so that everyone knows what to expect when teams try to solve a problem. The "do" means implementing the best solution to the problem. The "check" step involves evaluating the solution to the problem to see if it worked.
When a company performs the "act" stage, it determines whether or not the solution should become a company standard or if it needs further changes. If managers decide to implement more changes, kaizen goes back to the plan step and the process starts over.
One of the key goals of kaizen is to reduce waste and increase efficiency in the production cycle. A just-in-time (JIT) inventory strategy allows management to minimize excess inventory by matching the delivery of raw materials from suppliers with production schedules. Also known as the Toyota Production System (TPS), for the company that popularized the strategy, JIT helps companies cut costs because manufacturers do not have to pay inventory carrying costs. It also reduces waste because companies are not left with extra inventory should a customer cancel or postpone an order.
Kanban is an inventory control system used in conjunction with a JIT strategy. It provides employees with visual cues that tell them it is time to order parts and materials as they run out. The system relies on colored cards that track production and alert employees that it''s time to replenish a needed part or material. It enables employees to quickly order the correct amount of parts from the supplier and have them delivered to where they are needed in the factory. The goal of kanban is to ensure the efficient running of the factory assembly line and to prevent bottlenecks from occurring.