Definition – What is a Kaizen Event?

POST on Process Improvement by Jamie Johnson

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As a  business owner, you are probably very familiar with employee workshops and understand the value of organizing one for your own employees. Fostering an atmosphere where employees can gain new skill sets and you can leverage their knowledge is an invaluable opportunity. This is the idea behind a kaizen event.

The five steps in teaching an employee new skills are preparation, explanation, showing, observation and supervision.Bruce Barton

A kaizen event is a five-day team workshop with a specific goal or set of goals for an area that needs improvement. This event will be led by a team leader and will include training, data collection, brainstorming, and implementation. At the end of the event, the team leader will create a follow-up plan and a report to be submitted to management.

Many people are familiar with the term “kaizen”, which is Japanese for “change for better”. In business, kaizen refers to any activities that improve the function of a process. This article will look more closely at how to plan for a kaizen event and what you will experience over the five days.

What is a Kaizen Event?

Kaizen involves breaking down a process, removing any unnecessary elements, and then putting it back together in a new and improved way. The process should now work more smoothly and fully utilize the skill sets of everyone involved.

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The goal is similar to a kaizen event, only on a larger scale. Kaizen events can target very specific areas such as:

  • 5S Kaizen – A process that focuses on maintaining the standards and discipline of an organization.
  • TPM – TPM emphasizes preventative maintenance to maximize the efficiency of equipment. It places a strong emphasis on encouraging operators to maintain their equipment to avoid inefficiencies.
  • SMED – SMED is a system for minimizing the time it takes to complete equipment changeovers. The focus of SMED is to minimize the time involved in the changeover steps to simplify the remaining steps as well.
  • Value Stream Mapping – Value stream mapping is a method of analyzing the current process a product or service goes through from its beginning stages.

Production is often a focus of kaizen events because of the savings and improvements it can bring to your company. However, kaizen events can be applied to many different areas of a business, not just production. A kaizen event can be useful for any business, regardless of your industry.

Whatever the focus on the kaizen event, it will be aimed at improving a specific area of your business. Now let’s look at what goes into planning a successful kaizen event.

Planning a Kaizen Event

A successful kaizen event will need strong leadership and thoughtful planning ahead of time. On the first day of your event, the last thing you want is employees that are standing around wondering what they are supposed to be doing.

A successful kaizen event can lead to major improvements in the areas of efficiency and quality. Before the event begins, you need to figure out exactly what you hope to achieve through your kaizen event. Here are four ways you can plan for a successful kaizen event:

  • Decide the boundaries of the kaizen event

Of course, you should know what the goal of your event is and what you hope to accomplish. But you also need to know where it will take place and who should be involved.

  • Communicate your goals to employees

Your kaizen event should not be a surprise to your employees. Let me know why you are having this event and what they can expect to gain from it.

  • Decide on a team leader

You should select a team leader who will share your understanding about the importance of the event. This person will usually be a key supervisor in your company and someone who is focused on creating positive change as well.

  • Create measures for performance

You need to have a clear understanding of what improvements you want to make. Put measurements in place to show current levels of performance so you have something to compare that to when the event is finished.You will also need to have an idea of what you will be doing during the kaizen event. Figure out a rough timeline for your event. This will ensure that you have everything you need for any specific projects you might do.

Experiencing the Kaizen Event

During your kaizen event, the team leader will provide training and support to the team. It is also important that they keep employees engaged for the majority of the event. A lack of enthusiasm during the kaizen event will make it harder to implement any changes once the event is over.

It is important to let the team come up with their own ideas for how to make improvements. Since they are closest to the work involved they are the best ones to come up with solutions for improvement.

Here is a brief summary of what each day of the event will entail:

  • Day 1

The first day of your event will start with a kickoff and an explanation of why the event is important. There will usually be a training on the seven common forms of waste and a look at the current process that needs improvement. The first day of the kaizen event is about informing your employees and setting the stage for day two.

  • Day 2

Day two is usually focused on documentation and data gathering. Employees will identify bottlenecks and identify what resources are necessary to complete their tasks.

  • Day 3

On day three, employees will begin brainstorming possible solutions for improvement. They will create a plan that will identify a timeline for immediate and long-term improvements. Ideally, they should create a visual map to illustrate the impact of these changes.

  • Day 4

On the fourth day of the event, employees will focus on the implementation of their plan. This day focuses on find ways to implement their changes with minimal impact to the operation. This can be one of the toughest days of the kaizen event.

  • Day 5

On the final day of the event, employees will create a follow-up plan as well as a report for management. The teams should outline an overview of the best practices and things they learned. This can be useful for future kaizen events.

Conclusion

A kaizen event is not designed as a “quick fix” but as part of a solution for long-term improvement. Kaizen can be a valuable tool for positive change within any business. And with the right planning and tools, a kaizen event can deliver a number of positive improvements to your business.

Many businesses find that kaizen events help them gain a better understanding of their processes. By learning what does and does not work their entire organization feels more empowered toward creating positive change. The intangible benefits that come out of kaizen events are what many businesses find the most valuable.

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