So let’s review exactly what Kaizen is. Kaizen is the Japanese word for improvement. When referring to business, Kaizen means continuous improvement, thus activities done within a business that involve small continuous improvements for maximum results. Kaizen was brought into the spotlight when used in the Toyota Production System for its efficiency in its manufacturing and its cost reduction and minimization of waste.
The bulk of this system was originally created between 1948 through 1975; some of the top influencers involved were Taiichi Ohno, Eiji Toyoda and Shigeo Shingo. Today we also know this system by its other name, Lean manufacturing. So, although technically speaking Kaizen isn’t a part of Six Sigma, it has an honorary status and was adopted into the Six Sigma and Lean Six Sigma family.
A Powerful Tool in Kaizen
The 5S Tool, which stands for Seiri, Seiton, Seiso, Seiketsu, and Shitsuke, are Japanese words for the following:
- Seiri: Sort, which is the task of sorting out non-essentials from the work area. These non-essentials can wear many masks. They can be old documents, tools, benches, supplies, rags, or just about anything that is not necessary to the everyday work process.
- Seiton: Set in Order, which means whatever is left after you have sorted the non-essentials out. These essentials must be set in order as close in proximity so that no unnecessary steps need to be taken. Everything in its place and there is a place for everything, unless of course if it is being used.
- Seiso: Shine, this means the task of cleaning the work area, which does include keeping any machinery and tools in working condition. The mindset of Kaizen is to keep the machines and tools in better condition than the day they arrived from the factory.
- Seiketsu: Standardize, this means making the first three items on this list a habit. If this doesn’t happen from the start, the entire process will fail and go back to its original unorganized condition. This is super important to set the “standard” for continued success. So if a machine needs to be wiped clean after usage, that must continue going forward.
- Shitsuke: Sustain, it has been noted that management is usually the failure for the sustainment of a well-organized workplace. It seems that when new management sets in, the respect for what did work in previous management is out the door. Keep what did work and eliminate what did not work from previous management.
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