Model Factory by Toby Oxborrow

The concept of ‘Kaizen’ has its roots in the early quality management Gurus, particularly Deming and Juran. Deming’s initial message was about the need to measure product deviations and to continually reduce them. His message has been well received in the Japanese manufacturing industry where a thorough and meticulous approach to production has long been appreciated. Kaizen is the Japanese term for continuous improvement. “It is both a rigorous, scientific method of using statistical quality control and an adaptive framework of organizational values and beliefs that keep management and workers alike focused on zero defects”.

The Kaizen approach is there to increase a manufacturing firm’s competitiveness on an ongoing basis through a series of small, gradual improvements. If part of the process can be improved every week then the accumulated gains can be substantial. The Kaizen approach supports group working, quality circles and cross-functional teamwork in a way that encourages discussion throughout the organization. Continuous improvement is also an integral part of the JIT philosophy and, to be effective, must be adopted by each member of the organization, not only those that are directly involved in the production process.

Japanese companies, such as Toyota and Canon, a total of 60 to 70 suggestions per employee per year are written down, shared and implemented. However the improvements come mainly from those who do the work and the system must encourage workers to contribute by setting time aside, encouraging group working (‘Kaizen groups’) and suggestions. It involves setting goals and standards to be met and, when these have been achieved, increase it in such a way that they appear reasonable and achievable. The Japanese approach has not always travelled successfully to the manufacturing firms in the US and Europe where the concept does not mix with the Western culture.

Photo by Benjamin Grove

The Kaizen process is based on several rules but the underlying concepts are the same: Be open minded, maintain positive attitude, reject excuses and seek solutions. Kaizen is an established Japanese business practice that underpins much of the thinking behind JIT and Japanese business norms in general. It requires establishing a plan to change whatever needs to be improved. Then carry out changes on a small scale and observe and measure the results. Finally evaluate both the results and the process and then determine what has been learned.

Asprova displays the results of scheduling in the form of Gantt chart that allows manufacturing firms to draw up plans in advance and make small adjustments. This repeated action assists in improving overall performance of the entire workflow by increasing throughput and preventing late deliveries. Our Time Constraint Max feature also enhances the quality of products by controlling the maximum wait time between processes.

To learn more, please visit our e-Learning website.

Operations Management in the Supply Chain, The Official Course Book of The Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply, Profex Publishing Limited, 2010, Page 171

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