Achieving success through Kaizen Philosophy

Achieving success through Kaizen Philosophy

The term Kaizen is made up of two words: Kai (Change), Zen (Good). The meaning is continuous improvement and comes from the Japanese culture. It is mainly a quality strategy of large multinational companies and is associated with the way of working of certain industrial production systems. Both Eastern and Western. That is to say, to the fact that every day must contain the possibility of an improvement, however small it may be.

Kaizen is used to detect and solve problems in all areas of a company. Its objective and priority is to review and optimize the processes that are carried out. An organization that applies this methodology has a great competitive advantage, since it is in constant change for continuous improvement and has motivated personnel.

In addition, it is a continuous challenge to improve standards. The phrase: “a long road begins with a small step”, illustrates the intrinsic sense of kaizen: any change process must begin with a decision and must be progressive over time.

Methodology for the development of Kaizen

The Kaizen method is based on several tools that allow it to develop within the entire organization. The aim is to realize its fundamental objective, to meet the customer’s expectations.

The 5S of the Kaizen methodology
  • SEIRI (separate): separation of unnecessary by eliminating everything that is not necessary in the workplace.
  • SEITON (situate): situate necessary. Establish a place for everything, which will facilitate the accessibility and identification of all the elements and materials in the area.
  • SEISO (suppress): suppress dirt. Identify and eliminate all sources of dirt so that they do not appear again in the work area.
  • SEIKETSU (signalize): signal anomalies, review and systematize routine practices.
  • SHITSUKE (sustain): standardize the four previous processes to unify it, so that it is continuous and can always be improved upon.

Once these five steps have been followed, it is necessary to design an instructional map to instill the Kaizen spirit in the personnel. Finally, it is necessary to recognize the existing problems. For this purpose, there are tools such as PDCA or the Deming cycle, which are divided into 4 stages.

PDCA Cycle

Planning (Plan)

In this stage, the object of improvement is selected, explaining the reasons for this choice and defining the objectives to be achieved.

  • Current situation
  • Information analysis
  • Objectives


During the field work, we start looking for solutions that can be implemented quickly.

  • Proposed solutions
  • Just do it


Check that the proposed objectives are achieving the expected results. If this is not the case, go back to step two.

  • Monitoring
  • Verification of proposals


This is the fundamental stage of Kaizen continuous improvement. In this phase we must ensure that improvements are not wasted. This will depend on the formalization of corrective actions. With this we will proceed to the standardization and, if possible, to the improvement of the proposals of the object of analysis.

  • Standardization
  • Search for optimization.
The 10 Kaizen commandments
  1. Waste is public enemy number 1 and must be eliminated.
  2. Improvements in the company must be gradual and continuous.
  3. Everyone must be involved. From the CEO to the last employee.
  4. Relies on a cheap strategy, it believes in an increase in productivity without significant investments.
  5. Applies to any aspect, be it professional or personal.
  6. It relies on a “visual management”, on a total transparency of procedures, process, values; it makes problems and waste visible to everyone’s eyes.
  7. Focuses attention on where value is really created (“gemba” in Japanese).
  8. It is process-oriented.
  9. Priority to people, to “humanware”. It believes that the main effort for improvement must come from a new mentality and work style of people (personal orientation for quality, teamwork, cultivation of wisdom, moral elevation, self-discipline, quality circles and practice of individual or group suggestions). It is also necessary to enhance the relationship of empowerment with the employee, to keep them informed about the company, from the induction and during the time they are there. If people are ignorant about issues such as the company’s mission, values, products, personal performance, or plans, they will not feel a sense of belonging.
  10. The essential motto of organizational learning is learning by doing.
Japanese umbrella or the seven Kaizen systems

Just-in-Time production system: aims to produce according to customer requirements, avoiding high inventories of both raw materials and finished products.

Total Quality Management (TQM): the objective is to achieve the integral quality of the company’s processes, products and services. Tools such as statistical process control are used for this purpose.

Suggestion system, CETA or CEDAC: to take into account the ideas of the workers, taking advantage of their experience and knowledge, thus increasing their motivation.

Total Productive Maintenance (TPM-SMED): TPM uses the maximum production capacity of the machines, taking care of quality, costs and safety. SMED reduces machine and tool preparation times, making production runs more flexible, reducing inventories of raw materials and products in process.

Quality Control Circles: multidisciplinary teams that meet to solve problems, looking for solutions to achieve objectives.

Policy deployment: all levels and processes of the organization contribute to planning, organization and control activities.

Cost system (KANBAN): aims to systematically reduce costs, loss analysis, failure levels of processes, activities, products and services.

The benefit of the Kaizen method for startups.

A study conducted in 2018 by Kaizen Institute, a consulting firm specializing in continuous improvement for the sustainable growth of companies, has analyzed the growth and turnover of startups. This one, came to the conclusion that the common denominator in the biggest success stories lies in the intrinsic application of Kaizen principles in their foundations, which multiplies their turnover in a few years. This analysis was carried out by observing the evolution in recent years of several emerging companies in the retail and consumer products sector, based on the consulting firm’s worldwide client portfolio.

International examples

While the best known is Toyota, Ford adopted the Kaizen philosophy in 2006, when Alan Mulally took over as CEO, and continued under the leadership of Mark Fields (who was at the company until 2017). The company focused on adopting practices that would allow them to make their processes more efficient. It located ways to reduce times and corrected repetitive actions so that each time it is done it is done more efficiently than the previous time. 

For its part, Nestlé used the method to reduce waste while reducing the time and amount of materials used in each process. In addition, Kaizen helps them find the best use for the space they have available in their plants, the resources at hand and the best use of the talent and technology they have at their disposal.

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