Making Use of the Kaizen Event in the Office

Kaizen is a Japanese word that means continuous improvement in and orderly manner. A Kaizen event is an intensive, short-term project intended to improve a specific process within a business. By improving a process the overall system will be improved – the proverbial weak link is strengthened and the chain does not fall apart.

One of the great benefits of a Kaizen Event is that it brings together people from all levels of a business who are directly or indirectly involved with the process that needs to be streamlined. The people involved should include anyone who works directly with the process as well as those that are indirectly related to the process, people from other departments such as managers, supervisors, workers, shipper/receiver, and salespeople. If you are dealing with a process in a large company, then the product manager and engineering, maintenance, IT, merchandising staff may also participate.

Kaizen Events are a way of perpetuating the ideals and goals of the Lean Office approach. Most effectively, they can be used as checkpoints after the Lean Office approach is implemented to ensure that streamlining is still taking place and that continuous improvements are indeed taking place. They can also be used to introduce to a business to the idea of streamlining. They can get a taste of the Lean Office concept and then they may want to come back or more. In other words, a Kaizen Event can offer proof of the effectiveness of the Lean Office approach.

Kaizen Events should not be implemented at random within a business. Process improvement needs to be prioritized so that the overall system will benefit the most. For this reason, value stream mapping (VSM) is very useful at the outset. With VSM you will have a visual representation of your business processes and your will be able to see clearly where there is waste, what processes need to be improved, and which are in most need of improvement. From here, you can easily map out your priorities and plan a strategy to improve processes one at a time.

It is a good idea start with a process that is estimated to have a high success rate and that is relatively self-contained so that it does not rely on other processes to any great degree. It is also important to choose a process that is highly visible throughout the organization so that the improvements will be apparent to everyone.

Kaizen Events should be performed at regular intervals to ensure that processes are running smoothly. It is in this way that continuous improvements are implemented. Kaizen Events generate profit both directly, by affecting the final product that goes into the hands of the customer, and indirectly, by creating savings within the company. However, probably the most impressive benefit of the Kaizen Event is that it creates a habit of success within the company. Often times, the people involved in the process will be so pumped by the initial improvement resulting from the Kaizen Event that they will want to continue the improvement process in order to continue to see the results.

Training for a Kaizen Event generally takes place over five days, during which time VSM will be done and analyzed and problems will be detected. Any data and information required to understand the problem and implement the solution is gathered and a solution is mapped out in detail. Implementation of the solution is put into action and any loose ends are tied up. After the initial Kaizen Event, training regular follow-up meetings should be held until all the changes have been implemented.

Kaizen Events are crucial to the successful streamlining of a business, whether on the manufacturing side or in the office. They are a great short-term method to analyze business processes and present solutions to encourage Lean Office practices within the specific process. Improving the individual processes will allow the entire system to run more smoothly and this will ultimately affect the customer. The ideal situation in which to implement Kaizen Events are after a business has fully implemented a Lean Office strategy, as a way of maintaining the results of the waste management of the entire business.

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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