Let’s look now at the specific methods you can use to benefit from the Kaizen approach. These methods can help you improve productivity and quality to give you a competitive edge and improve business results.
The Toyota experience of using Kaizen shows how you can improve competitiveness and results using the continuous improvement approach of Kaizen. Let’s get started now on looking more at methods.
Approaching Root Cause Analysis (RCA)
The Kaizen approach asks that everyone in an organization help with finding improvements. The improvements should be based on everyone working together to find the cause, then experimenting with a solution to fit the problem, until the experiment fixes the problem.
Here are some of the approaches that work with the Kaizen method. These approaches support the “5 whys method” for finding the root cause. If you have a problem, you ask why five times to help uncover the root cause.
You also should follow these guidelines:
- Find the right people for the team – include those who know the process best not necessarily the management
- Find the right facilitator for the topic – this again could be the person who knows the process best not the supervisor
- Right down the problem
- Make sure each team member understands the problem
- Look at the cause not the symptom
- Determine the cause and effect properly
- Be specific
If you follow these guidelines you will have a better method to determine how to analyze a problem and find the right solution.
Here are some more guidelines to help you with your method:
- Look at facts and data
- Look at the process
- Do not blame the people
- Make the environment one of trust
- Remember the customer
If you place the focus on the customer your team can work together to determine a method to make you more competitive to improve your process and the quality of the end product.
Another method that can help
If you use the cycle of PDCA – meaning plan-do-check-act – this is another method that can help you become more competitive with a higher quality product and improved process productivity. Let’s look more closely at this method.
- Plan means to set up an experiment based on your analysis of a problem. Your goal could be to eliminate scrap. If you keep your machine maintained according to a schedule you could have less scrap or no scrap. This would be your plan – to keep your machine maintained.
- Do means you follow through on your plan. If your plan is to maintain your machine according to a daily maintenance schedule, try it.
- Act means to accept your experiment as a new way of doing things or try another experiment based on another look at the reason for the problem. Maybe the maintenance schedule is not the problem. Maybe you are getting scrap because you are mixing ingredients together wrong. That could be your next experiment.
This approach gets its inspiration from the scientific method where you based conclusions on data and fact. If you use the PDCA method continuously you can approach a total quality management operation.
Remember that a cornerstone of these methods is to keep going through cycles. The process is continuous. This approach gets you closer to a near perfect process and product.
Remember also that the PDCA process involves distinct phases. The planning stage and do stage must be separate as are the control and act stages. Each stage adds to the process in its unique way.
A quick review
We looked at a couple of methods involving Kaizen. PDCA is one method and root cause analysis is another. If you use these methods, you should improve your processes and products. You should also improve your bottom line.