Kaizen (Continuous Improvement) is a strategy where employees at all levels of a company work together proactively to achieve regular, incremental improvements to the manufacturing process. In a sense, it combines the collective talents within a company to create a powerful engine for improvement.
Kaizen is part action plan and part philosophy.
Kaizen works hand-in-hand with Standardized Work. Standardized Work captures the current best practices for a process, and Kaizen aims to find improvements for those processes. Note the emphasis on current; Standardized Work is living documentation (it continually evolves through Kaizen).
A typical Kaizen event has a process that goes something like this:
This type of Kaizen process cycle is frequently referred to as PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, and Act). PDCA brings a scientific approach to making improvements:
Interestingly, Kaizen as an action plan is exactly what develops Kaizen as a philosophy. When Kaizen is applied as an action plan through a consistent and sustained program of successful Kaizen events, it teaches employees to think differently about their work. In other words, consistent application of Kaizen as an action plan creates tremendous long-term value by developing the culture that is needed for truly effective continuous improvement.