Implementing A Kaizen Event in Non-Manufacturing

Variety distinguishes manufacturers from non-manufacturers. Manufacturers dislike too much variety. They want to stamp out products quickly and efficiently because they’re focused on fulfilling customer demand. The more variety they have, the more production slows. The more production slows, the longer it takes for the manufacturer’s products to reach the customer.

Non-manufacturers absorb variety. They must be able to deal with a wide variety of process events efficiently and effectively every day. Why?  Because they’re focused on fulfilling “failure demand.” They deal with problems caused by the failure to do something or the failure to do something right. The more problems they solve, the more effective they are. The more effective they are, the happier the customers.

Kaizen events are improvement events that make small but significant changes to a process. These changes provide numerous benefits to a company, like eliminate waste, reduce costs, and increase productivity. Kaizen produces immediate results and energizes employees, motivating them to accept change. While Kaizen is ideal for manufacturing, they are also well suited for non-manufacturing.

In a traditional Kaizen project, employees from a specific work area and experts meet for a few days to pinpoint and solve process problems. The team completes most of or all of a DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) cycle on a narrowly defined, high-priority project. This approach has been so successful in manufacturing that many non-manufacturers are using it, too.

For example, a major national bank employs Kaizen whenever it wants to attack process speed and efficiency problems. It’s had great success in doing so. First, it decides which problem to address. Then, it forms a project team, which oversees the Kaizen event, and selects a project sponsor for the event. Finally, it implements the Kaizen event using a specific format.

Usually, employees in the target work area meet for a few days away from their day-to-day responsibilities. This team reviews the targeted process to identify opportunities to apply Kaizen effectively. Often, the team is looking for simple, easily correctable problems to solve, low hanging fruit as one consultant puts it. Common sense solves these problems.

During the review, the employees use tools like process maps, spaghetti maps, time value analysis, and value stream mapping to understand the process. These tools enhance their understanding of the targeted process. Once the team truly understands the process, it then identifies relevant opportunities, and develops solutions to solve them. It often comes up with several alternatives.

These alternatives are field tested and evaluated during the event. This allows the team and process owners to gauge the effectiveness of each alternative and make adjustments to them. The outcomes are agreed-upon approaches fully implemented and accepted by process owners. If a significant investment or extended implementation time is required, the team develops a follow-up plan and turns over sponsorship to the project sponsor.

Finally, the team evaluates the benefits produced by the event. The team asks questions like how many non-value activities were eliminated, how much was productivity increased, and how much were costs reduced. It also asks questions like how much were revenues increased and what were the effects on employee morale. Evaluating the benefits is an essential step in a Kaizen event.

In one Kaizen event an emergency department developed improvements to its intake process within four days. First, it standardized ED room layout. Next, it streamlined patient transport, which released dedicated transporters to the transport pool with the understanding that they would respond within 15 minutes if needed. Other changes freed nurses to focus more on bed management

Al together these changes had a profound effect on value added activities, in this case, direct patient care. Standardizing layouts and stocking exam rooms increased nurse availability by 35 hours. Streamlining the transport procedure improved availability of patient care associates and nurses by 84 hours. Implementing other improvements accelerated inpatient bed coordination, reducing cycle time by 71 percent, to an average of 42 minutes.

The Kaizen format used by the hospital’s emergency department works for many non-manufacturers but it’s not always ideal. Some companies can’t free a work group, or sub work group, to meet for several days off the job. Companies can work around these problems, however. Work-arounds are effective if they rely on those doing the work, include data-based decision making, focus on narrowly defined problems, and involve key projects with measurable results.

Implementing a Kaizen event is feasible in non-manufacturing.. That’s because Kaizen relies on a proven cycle: standardize an operation, measure the standardized operation, gauge measurements against needs, innovate to meet needs and increase productivity. A Kaizen event provides significant benefits and enhances the manufacturer’s and non-manufacturer’s abilities to deal with a wide variety of major problems effectively.

Peter Peterka is President of Lean Six Sigma US. For additional information on Six Sigma Green Belt or other Six Sigma Black Belt programs contact Peter Peterka.

Author: Peter Peterka Google

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