As compared to1980 the market today is much more competitive and ignoring the ‘Quality’ of your product might cost you to your business. There are several Lean Manufacturing & Toyota Production System tools that can help you to maintain better quality & one of them is known as ‘Kaizen‘. 

In this article, you are going to learn about Kaizen, Why to implement Kaizen?, Forms of Muda, and How to implement Kaizen?


The Kaizen tool is a continuous improvement tool used in both manufacturing and service sectors. It aims to bring small continuous improvements which can help you to improve productivity, decrease defects, increase profit, and ultimately lead your organization to the path of success.

According to the developer of Kaizen, ‘Imai Masaaki’, Kaizen is a continuous improvement technique performed by everyone, everywhere and every day. This means kaizen involves every member of your organization from the CEO to the shop floor staff in the improvement process. This also empowers & engages the workers at all levels of your organization in identifying opportunities for change and improvement. Thus, helping you to ensure the continuous improvement of all processes and systems of your organization. 


The seed of Kaizen was sown during the Korean conflict after the second world war. Japan was serving as a major supply line for the US military, who backed South Korea. This lead to the revitalization of industry in Japan marked the beginning of quality management in the country. In fact, the word Kaizen is made from two Japanese words, ‘Kai meaning Change’ and ‘Zen meaning Good’ and together meaning ‘Change for Good’.
And from Japan, the first name pops up in our mind is Toyota. The Toyota industry implemented quality circles in their production process. They set a rule for the group of workers performing a similar task to meet regularly in order to identify, analyze and solve work-related problems. This revolutionary concept became famous in Japan & was termed as Kaizen in the 1950s. However, It was Imai Masaaki who made this concept famous throughout the world.

Why Implement Kaizen?

Do you know Henry Ford? Of course, yes! But do you know this quote of him?

[bctt tweet=” There are no big problems – there are just a lot of little problems. – Henry Ford” username=”fromc2e”]

These little problems might lead to giant leaps in quality, productivity, and the safety of your organization. However, these problems can be overcome by making small continuous improvements in your processes and work standards i.e. by implementing Kaizen. The first and the primary goal of Kaizen is to reduce Muda which is also known as waste. 

What is Muda?

From the industrial point of view, Muda is defined as the activity which adds no value to the product but adds time and cost. 


To explain this, I would like you to consider the above chart. An activity performed in an industry can be divided into Value Added Activity and Non-Value Added Activity. The Non-Value Added Activity can be further divided into Necessary Non-Value Added Activity and Waste(Muda).

This waste is generated from the activities performed by the 6Ms i.e. Man, Machine, Material, Method, Measurement, Mother Nature(environment). Don’t get confused by considering this waste as rejections or rework. They are hidden waste such as bottlenecks, long setup times, poor housekeeping, absenteeism, unstable schedule, unexpected downtime or machine breakdowns. According to Wikipedia, there are 7 forms of Muda or waste.

7 forms of Muda

Types of Waste

1. Transportation

Transportation is the movement of materials from one location to another and if it adds zero value to the product the considered as waste. It’s like paying people for moving material and making no money. While necessary transportation cannot be avoided, any type of excess transportation is inadvisable.

Reasons behind Transportation waste

  • Movement of items.
  • Exchanging excessive emails.
  • Taking files from one person to another.

Impacts of Transportation waste

  • Adds time and money.
  • Damage & misplacement of items.
  • Increases the cycle or lead time.
  • Consumes the valuable resources.

 2. Inventory

Many firms see inventory as something significant, especially when it is on the shop floor. In fact, customers see it as a security to their work order commitments. However, the fact is any excess inventory can easily cost you 30%–65% of its value per year. This leads us to consider excess inventory as a waste. Moreover, the waste of Inventory hides many of the other wastes in your systems. Hence, efficient use of inventory is important. 

Reasons behind Inventory waste

  • Storing inventory to avoid frequent setup.
  • Poor inventory management.
  • Following the term ‘Just in Case’.
  • Maintaining inventory to impress customers visiting the shop floor.

Impacts of  Inventory waste

  • Requires maintenance, transportation, and space.
  • Requires packaging to prevent it from getting damaged.
  • Takes valuable space.
  • Leads to difficulty in managing FIFO

3. Motion

According to Industrial Engineering study, any movement more than 15 degrees of your hand or head during your work is considered as a waste of Motion. Of course, you can’t manage that but certainly, you can manage those movements which are not as small or as easy to achieve as possible. This means bending down to pick heavy objects at floor level could be fed at waist level to reduce stress and time. Everything should be arranged in a manner so that a worker has to move as little as necessary.

Reasons behind Motion waste

  • Handling paperwork.
  • Excessive machine movements.
  • Excessive movement of people.

Impacts of Motion waste

  • Increases cycle time.
  • Adds extra cost.
  • Increases Stress and Pain.

4. Waiting

One of the biggest and the most common waste in Muda is waiting. Spending tremendous amount of time in waiting for things is an absolute waste. You pay wages to your workers and if they have to wait for parts, machine processes, or other workers then this is a complete waste of money. In fact, Toyota also considers this waste disrespectful too. 

Reasons behind Waiting waste

  • Waiting for instructions.
  • Lack of coordination.
  • Waiting for machine repair.
  • Idle time due to lack of “Standard” operations.

Impacts of Waiting waste

  • Cause bottlenecks.
  • Adds to cycle time.
  • Slows response to the customer.
  • Increases work in progress.

5. Over-Production

Excess of everything is considered as a waste and so is overproduction. It is most serious of all of the seven wastes as it acts as a multiplier to other waste. Also, it’s like paying today for the work of the next week. However, the impacts of this waste are similar to that of the inventory waste.

Reasons behind Over-Production Waste

  • Working with oversize batches.
  • Poor supplier relations.
  • Working on the wrong priority product.
  • Producing more than the customer or next process needs.

Impacts of Over-Production Waste

  • Takes up floor space.
  • Requires transportation and movement.
  • Hides other processes and problems (bad quality and poor delivery).
  • Builds inventory not needed.

6. Over-Processing

Over-processing refers to the inclusion of additional features, parts, processes, or other things that the customer does not need and hence is not willing to pay for it. This is the proverbial golden screw. It mostly occurs with companies using mega-machines which requires routing for every process causing scheduling complications and delays.

Reasons behind Over-Processing

  • Inappropriate techniques.
  • Working to tight tolerances.
  • Performing processes that are not required.
  • Incomplete information supplied.

Impacts of Over-Processing

  • Adds time and money.
  • Creates Delay in Delivering.
  • Creates the opportunity for more defects. 

7. Defects

This is the most obvious of the seven wastes and the most difficult to detect before they reach your customers. Any product that does not satisfy the requirements is to be reworked or thrown out. Even if it can be reworked, it is an additional effort, will consume more capacity and time. However, the waste of defects can be prevented by implementation of poka-yoke systems and Jidoka.

Reasons behind Defects

  • Lack of clarity on the requirements.
  • Unnecessary changes in Decision.
  • Incomplete or incorrect inputs.

Impacts of Defects

  • Consumes resources in rework.
  • Create delay in delivery.
  • Discourage customer satisfaction.
  • Adds Cost 
  • Escalated impact on initial defect if passed on to next process.

The Kaizen tool helps you to remove these waste through small continuous improvement processes. However, the benefits of Kaizen are not limited to removing Muda. Several other areas that are benefited by kaizen are as follows:

  • Improvement in product and process quality.
  • Improvement in the system.
  • Reduction in fatigue.
  • Improvement in safety.
  • Reduction in accident/ incident.
  • Reduction in duplication of work.
  • Energy Saving.
  • Easiness of work.
  • Increased Efficiency.
  • Employee Satisfaction.
  • Reduction in paperwork.
  • Improvement in 5S System.
  • Improvement in the morale of the employees.

How to implement Kaizen?

Kaizen is a tool which requires minimum investment and offers maximum improvements. There are two different methods to implement Kaizen.

1. Kaizen Event

‘Kaizen Event’ is the word which pops up first when you think about implementing kaizen. It can be termed as kaizen blitz or kaizen burst depending on the activity requirement.

The kaizen blitz approach focuses on a particular process and is used to identify and remove the waste quickly. However, when an external team is required to approach the problem, the kaizen event is termed as kaizen burst. A Kaizen Event is a few days or week long improvement activity. Thus, making it a definite event with a destination. 

2. Daily Kaizen

Daily Kaizen is a continuous process with no definite stop. It requires the team to meet daily or weekly to discuss the suggestions for improvement & the potential solutions for the issues they have encountered since their last meeting. The meeting should be held at the place where the process is occurring and every team member must be present.

Daily Kaizen and Kaizen event are two different approaches to implement Kaizen, although the goal remains the same i.e. improvement of the process. Before discussing the implementation procedure of Kaizen, I would like you to remember these 10 Golden rules of implementing kaizen. 

10 Golden rules of Kaizen

  1. Don’t try to justify the past – Challenge fixed ideas.
  2. Think positive – Think of CAN, not CAN NOT.
  3. Use data, not pet theories.
  4. Use wisdom, not money.
  5. Work smarter not harder.
  6. Set high standards.
  7. Correct failures immediately – 70% now is better than 100% never.
  8. Lead by example.
  9. A team is better than 1 expert – involve people.
  10. Identify the root cause.

Implementing Kaizen

The implementation of Kaizen involves the following two steps.

1. Identifying Opportunities for Change

The very first step of Kaizen is to perform process reviews. This helps you to identify initial opportunities for improvement. Review the processes and each step involved in the process until you have covered each one. You can perform the following operations with the help of techniques mention below.

Perform PFMEA

Obviously, to improve a process, you have to understand it first. The Process Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (PFMEA) is one of the ways of finding Kaizen opportunities. This analysis can be performed with the help of a process map or a flowchart or any other data regarding the process such as work instructions, control plans etc. 

Perform 5W-2H Analysis

The other way of finding Kaizen opportunities is 5W-2H analysis. Using the 5 Why & 2 How analysis, you can review the process and evaluate each task by asking the following questions about the process being performed: –

  • Why?
  • What?
  • Where?
  • When?
  • Who?
  • How?
  • How often?

2. Use PDCA cycle to apply changes

At the heart of Kaizen lies the Shewhart Circle, also known as the PDCA cycle. In fact, the PDCA cycle also considered as the continuous improvement cycle. The Kaizen Event & the Daily Kaizen methods are implemented with the help of PDCA cycle.

PDCAThe PDCA cycle aims at performing the following four steps.

  • P(Plan): It is used to Identify an improvement opportunity and plan for the change.
  • D(Do): The plan is implemented to study a small-scale process and test the potential improvements. 
  • C(Check): After the successful implementation of the program the results are reviewed and the effectiveness of the change is measured.
  • A(Act): In the final part, the action is taken if the changes are successful.

Always use a Kaizen before and after Template while implementing Kaizen. This will not only increase the smoothness of your implementation process and also help you to track your work easily. Get them Here.

[bctt tweet=”The message of the Kaizen strategy is that not a day should go by without some kind of improvement being made somewhere in the company – Masaaki Imai” username=”fromc2e”]

Best of Luck!

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