Many Lean practitioners seem to take the position that the way you do process improvement is through Kaizen Events. In a Kaizen Event (sometimes known as a Kaizen Blitz) a team of people focus on a given work area or problem, and they develop and implement improvements. While these events can take from a half day to a full week or more, the definition of the event put forth in “The Kaizen Blitz” (AME – 1999) suggests that three days is best. This is not incremental improvement; it suggests significant improvement over a short period of time.
But do you need to wait for a Kaizen Event to make improvements? NO! I was talking to a manufacturing executive the other day that has many small activities going on all at the same time (he won’t even refer to it as Lean) that resulted in about a 7% annual cost reduction/profit improvement on total sales! He believes that continuous improvement by itself empowers people in operations to make many improvements which over time, add up to big numbers. Some of the improvements might take only minutes to identify, plan, do, check and adjust. Others may take hours, days or even weeks depending on the scope. His thought is – don’t limit people to an event to make improvements. Empower them to make them continuously and it becomes part of the culture.
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