Kaizen 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 also referred to as Continuous 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, consistently applying Kaizen as an action plan creates tremendous long-term value by developing the culture that is needed for truly effective continuous improvement.