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Monday, March 4, 2019

5 Ways to Improve Your Kaizens

The goals of continuous improvement are simple: 1) make things easier 2) better 3) faster and 4) cheaper. Kaizen is the ongoing, systematic, incremental improvement in the way things are done. It is a relentless attempt to eliminate the unnecessary activities, delay, waste, and variation of business processes that add cost without adding value.

Kaizen is a mindset and practice that encourage reflection, teamwork, standardization, mastery of the process, experimentation to find better ways, comparison to baseline accomplishments, incremental and ever-evolving change, and the ongoing improvement of results. It asks the simple question, “How can I do this better?”

If you’re in a leadership position, here are some tips I’ve used and found success with over the years that can make your kaizens more effective:

1. Empower Your Employees
Employees who are closest to the problems on your shop floor are the best-equipped to solve them. They are your greatest assets in your kaizen efforts, so give them the support they need to implement improvements. Developing your team’s abilities through training and support should be as much a part of your continuous improvement program as making improvements to manufacturing processes.

Additionally, engaging team members to identify problems and suggest improvements in their work areas encourages a sense of ownership over their work, which can improve overall motivation, morale, and productivity.

2. Make Changes Happen
Kaizen is not “brainstorming” but it is “trystorming”. Changes have to be implemented. People get used to ways they perform work. It is necessary to convince them that new methods will be better. Increase their motivation, involve them into process of changes, allow "trystorming" (enable workers to try new ways without consequences).

Remember to use your wits, instead of reaching for your wallet – and try to think outside the box! Often, a bit of innovative thinking can go a long way and doesn’t require additional investments.

3. Focus on Small Changes
Approach change in small, incremental steps; if you improve by just 1% every day for a year, you’ll be 37 times better than when you started. Test and implement small changes. This increases the speed to improvement and reduces the pressures and risks of implementing a major change.

To this end, focus your improvements on solving the root causes of issues. This allows employees to catch and contain small issues before they become larger and costlier to eliminate, and it prevents the same problems from reoccurring.
4. Document Your Process and Performance Before and After Improvements Have Been Implemented.
In kaizen, it’s important to “speak with data and manage with facts.” In order to evaluate improvements objectively, existing procedures must be standardized and documented. Mapping the process’s initial state can help you identify wastes and areas for improvement and provide a benchmark for improvement.

Measuring performance against existing benchmarks allows you to demonstrate gains from your kaizen efforts and keep the company aligned around improvement. It also allows you to identify areas where your efforts are working–or not–so you can make strategic decisions about future improvements.

In order to measure performance objectively, you should identify metrics that quantify improvements. These may include metrics revolving around quality, cost, resource utilization, customer satisfaction, space utilization, staff efficiency, and other KPIs.

5. Enforce Improvements
It’s easy for employees to regress to their old ways. Enforcing the changes you’ve made to your processes is important for the improvements you’ve made to last, and it’s key to sustaining continuous improvement in the long term.

In order for improvements to last, they must be standardized and repeatable. Standardizing work is crucial to kaizen because it creates a baseline for improvement. When you make improvements to a process, it’s essential to document the new standard work in order to sustain the improvements and create a new baseline. Standard work also reduces variability in processes and promotes discipline, which is essential for continuous improvement efforts to take root.

Successful kaizen efforts can result in benefits such as increased productivity, improved quality, better safety, lower costs, and improved customer satisfaction. Kaizen can also lead to benefits in a company’s culture, including improved communication among employees, improved morale and employee satisfaction, and an increased sense of ownership in the company among employees.

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