Gemba Kaizen – Are We Patient Enough?

April 23th, 2010

Tags: gemba kaizen, kaizen, kaizen facilitator, continuous improvement

Gemba Kaizen is the philosophy of small incremental improvements every day, every week, and every month. It all adds up to significant benefits at the end of the year, but are we patient enough? Gemba in Japanese means “Real Place”, which is where products are produced and where customers meet service providers.

Kaizen means “continuous improvement” which is defined as small, incremental improvements, where if we spend any money it is minimal, and the improvement results are measured in hard cost savings, higher quality, and better productivity. There are three cornerstones that support the Gemba Kaizen philosophy of continuous improvement.

  1. Eliminate Waste
  2. Housekeeping
  3. Standardization

Eliminate waste is based upon the seven wastes as defined by Taichi Ohno, the father of the Lean Philosophy, which was originally known as “Just in Time”.

  1. Overproduction – minimize producing more than is necessary to meet customer demand.
  2. Inventory – minimize the quantity of raw materials, components, semi-finished, and finished goods on hand at any time.
  3. Scrap, Rejects, and Repairs – minimize the time and cost associated with evaluation, disposition, repair and materials, scrap disposal, material handling, storage, expedited shipping, overtime, and non standard labor
  4. Motion – minimize the motion and wear and tear on the employees through workplace design, ergonomics, and safety
  5. Processing – minimize processing steps, travel distance, cycle time, and inventory levels
  6. Waiting – minimize the downtime of equipment, changeover and set-up time, lack of parts, and synchronization between process steps and processes.
  7. Transport – minimize transportation of materials and components on trucks, forklifts, and conveyors

Housekeeping is based upon the philosophy that order, organization, and cleanliness fosters pride and efficiency in the workplace.

  1. Sort the Tools and Objects that are Used from those Not Used
  2. Straighten the needed items so they are easy to find, use, and put away
  3. Scrub and clean the work area, which includes shelves and cabinets
  4. Systematize the times and frequency for cleaning and putting all items back in order
  5. Standardize your efforts and report progress on the work group’s Visual Management System

Standardization is based upon repeatability and reproducibility of the best, easiest, and safest way to do a job or provide a service. Repeatability means that I will be consistent time after time and reproducibility means that the entire work group will be consistent time after time. To drive small incremental improvements every day, every week, and every month is best accomplished following a simple four step cycle. This cycle, often referred to as PDCA, was originated by Walter Shewhart and promoted in Japan by W. Edwards Deming. PDCA is the acronym for Plan, Do, Check, and Act.

The following is the continuous cycle.

  1. Study the Process (Check)
  2. Determine Corrective Actions (Act)
  3. Plan and Prioritize the Actions (Plan)
  4. Implement the Improvements (Do)

It all adds up to significant benefits at the end of the year, but are we patient enough?

Gemba Kaizen Facilitator Training is available at complete with all the tools needed for the continuous improvement journey.

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