Pillar Eight of the Toyota Production System (TPS)
Kaizen, widely known as continuous improvement, is a core TPS principal that focuses on improving quality and operational efficiency in the workplace.
Kaizen’s key objective is to eliminate waste in all of a business’ systems and processes in order to maximize productivity. It accomplishes this through engaging and empowering employees to provide ongoing feedback on ways to improve.
Whether in the context of manufacturing, accounting, human resources or any other business function, it is important that all employees are encouraged to identify areas for improvement and propose solutions. Building a culture where employees actively participate in improving the company fosters cohesion and collaboration in the workplace and leads to higher productivity and quality of work.
The kaizen approach generally consists of the following steps:
- Identify an opportunity to improve a process.
- Analyze the process.
- Develop an optimal solution.
- Implement the solution.
- Analyze the results of the implementation.
- Standardize the solution.
Teaching this method to employees and encouraging them to take action is instrumental to growth and success.
To assist with implementing kaizen, some businesses use a process mapping tool. A process map is a visual demonstration of all steps and decisions in a process, designed to eliminate waste and maximize value-add time. It typically addresses the who, what, when, and where for each step in a process — from beginning to end. And it helps identify any waste, such as defects, time delays, overstock and non-value-add time.
It is important to seek feedback from all those involved in the process in order to validate the process map and ensure the practicality and effectiveness of any proposed changes to the process. Once everyone is in agreement, the solutions can be implemented and standardized.
Kaizen practices can improve every function of a business, including product development, management and quality control. Ultimately, the result of kaizen is enhanced productivity and a more engaged workforce built on empowerment and collaboration.
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