Teaching the Importance of Kaizen to Every Employee
For decades, Lean Six-Sigma has been the gold standard among manufacturing philosophies. At the root of this time-tested ideology is a simple yet profound concept: Kaizen. It’s the idea that, through applied effort and careful observation, anything can (and should) be improved to its most efficient, effective level.
Kaizen is not only at the center of Lean Six-Sigma — it should be at the center of your company culture, as well.
Continuous improvement is the core of Kaizen
No matter the company — or the products or services it sells — efficiency is important. In the manufacturing space, the more efficient the production process, the less it costs to produce each unit and the fewer the problems that will arise during production. Attaining this level of efficiency means adopting a Kaizen approach to factory operations.
Kaizen represents a goal of continuous improvement. Following Kaizen principles helps producers focus on making processes more efficient. Broadly applied, Kaizen plays a central role in Lean Six-Sigma endeavors that focus on eliminating waste, improving product quality, reducing production times, and mitigating overall costs.
Kaizen in the factory is a group effort
The concept of Kaizen works only if everyone across the factory buys into and actively supports the philosophy. Everyone, from line workers to the C-suite, must accept ongoing improvement as both important and possible. Manufacturers must foster a culture of continuous improvement, and it starts by introducing the Kaizen way to all employees.
Manufacturing leaders should discuss the core concepts of Kaizen, regard every employee’s feedback and ideas as important, and help employees take ownership of their roles and seek opportunities for improvement. By fostering a culture that values communication and the importance of collective wisdom, every employee should feel empowered to share their ideas for improving the organization.
Start small and connect everyday concepts to the greater company vision of excellence. For example, a maintenance technician who’s compelled to deliver a higher standard of service must realize how their contribution improves total factory efficiency.
Create a culture driven by excellence
How can you instill Kaizen culture in the workplace? Communication is key, and the clarity of the message you’re sharing must focus specifically on a commitment to excellence. Try these tips to make Kaizen a focus across the scope of company operations:
- Make sure all employees understand the history and philosophy of Kaizen.
- Engage team members to identify problems and suggest improvements.
- Discuss implementing efficiency improvements identified by employees.
- Make Kaizen central to decision making as it applies to operations.
- Show quantifiable impacts of how efficiency improvements affect production.
- Empower workers in their everyday tasks, to create pride and accountability.
Above all, developing a culture of continuous improvement means earning buy-in from the entire organization. Again, every person — from equipment operators to top-level management — must reject complacency and embrace the potential for betterment. Even the smallest improvement leaves you better than where you started.