Roughly translated from Japanese, the meaning of Kaizen is “Kai – Zen” translated to “Change –Good”. This is a key element to “Continuous Improvement” part of the lean manufacturing philosophy. Kaizen targets process and human resources to maximize productivity. This is accomplished by eliminating waste within the process.

Kaizen breaks away from the traditional approach of costly large scale improvements that do not involve the production personnel and are controlled and implemented by management. The Kaizen approach is through “Kaizen blitz” or “Kaizen events” to make small improvements in focused areas that can be rapidly implemented.


Ÿ Employee involvement

o Builds trust throughout the organization giving everyone a voice in the improvement process.

o Develops a stronger working relationship between staff levels

o Improves the problem solving skills of all employees

Ÿ Target quick improvements in focused areas

Ÿ Defines roles and responsibilities of all personnel throughout and after the event

Ÿ Documents changes with proven results

Ÿ Develops a culture of continuous improvement


The basic steps to a successful Kaizen event are:

Ÿ Training –Everyone involved must understand the basic philosophy of a Kaizen event and the principles of lean manufacturing.

Ÿ Objective of the event – What is the scope of the event? This must be a focused target that can be completed within the time frame of the Kaizen event. A typical event last 3 to 5 days.

Ÿ Current State – To improve in any area first you need to know the current process and identify opportunities for improvement. This is accomplished through the use of value stream mapping, time studies and observation. Once the process has been documented you now can analyze the process through brainstorming to develop your future state map.

Ÿ Future state – The future state map should be the result of the brainstorming exercise and adopted by the Kaizen team. It should include Standard work, Visual controls and striving for a one piece flow. The future state must be able to be completed within the time frame of the Kaizen event. Usually, the team will discover other opportunities for the area, that can be implemented in future Kaizen events.

Ÿ Implementation – Setting up and organizing the new future state must be a group venture with full participation. Outside resources may be needed to complete the project on time.

Ÿ Verification – Once the future state has been set in place, it is time to review the results. Utilize time studies and verifying the standard work can be maintained. At this point the results should meet or exceeded the scope of the project.

Ÿ Celebration – It is time to celebrate the accomplishments. This can take the form of t-shirts, trophies, lunches or any reward that will promote future Kaizen events. This celebration should include all team members and anyone who contributed to the success of the event. The results should be posted for all to see, through e-mails, billboards and should be conveyed by the top of the organization.