How to run a Kaizen Event successfully

What is Kaizen?

We are pretty sure that if you are reading this blog is because you have heard talking about Kaizen. But what is kaizen? It is a Japanese word that started to be used in the master lessons of Deming and Juran during the development and recovery of Japan after II World War. 

Kai = change

Zen = for a better 

Kaizen = change for a better or continuous improvement

It is basically a continuous improvement process worked by team members in the Gemba. The result should be clear action plan in the short term and with low or zero cost. 

Why a Kaizen Event

Do you have unstable processes, weak standards and consequently random results?

We have learned that, in order to stabilize results, we must master Job Standardization (see Blogs on the subject, citing the 3 previous blogs).

Before starting a “Kaizen” Event, it is necessary to have a “Stable” situation, that is to say, we are already practicing the basic lean tools, which in themselves give us a very important contribution to Continuous Improvement, these basic tools are:

  • The 5 S’s
  • Standardization (visual Work Instructions)
  • Job Observation
  • Problem solving

Kaizen must go much further, it aims to break with what it is already in place, established, proposing ambitious objectives to improve our results (Safety, Quality, Productivity, Deadlines…).

Once the Kaizen is done, we will return to the instability of the new solution, therefore, the practice of the basic tools will lead us to the stability and to be able to start a new cycle of Kaizen improvement, that is why we say that improvement has no end…

The figure explains the Kaizen cycle:

How to run a Kaizen Event

Therefore, Kaizen:

  • questions the existing
  • sets ourselves ambitious new targets
  • carries out an in-depth analysis of the current situation from different angles
  • is formed by a multidisciplinary teamwork with the stakeholders involved in the project
  • executes a robust action plan immediately (or in the short term) and at the lowest cost

Kaizen principles

In order to participate in a Kaizen Event, the first thing you need is to have a state of mind open to change things and to question the established

Principles for success in Kaizen:

  • Getting rid of preconceived ideas
  • Do not look for excuses, look for solutions
  • Not defending the current situation, calling it into question
  • It is better to get it right quickly, than perfect later
  • If something is wrong, correct it immediately
  • Search for solutions that do not cost anything
  • Problems are the source of ideas
  • To find the real causes, ask yourself 5 times “why?”
  • The ideas of 10 people are worth more than the knowledge of a single person
  • We can always improve

And, in addition, continually think about eliminating waste:

  • Overproduction
  • Stocks
  • Maintenance
  • Production of defects
  • Non value-added operations
  • Inactivity
  • Useless movements

How to implement a Kaizen Event: Content of Kaizen Method

Organization and responsibilities:

    • Create a multidisciplinary team in which different actors skilled in the subject matter of the process to be improved can participate. These are the suggested team members:
      • A Kaizen event leader, who is familiar with the methodology, not necessarily an expert in the process in question, will lead the work shop.
      • Team Leader of the area: at least 1 (if possible 2 or 3)
  • Operators “upskilled (U) and/or trainers of trainers (O) according to the competency matrix ILUO”, of the positions that need improvement
    • One representative from engineering
    • A logistics representative
    • A maintenance representative
    • A quality representative
    • An ergonomics / safety specialist
    • Management participation in the presentation of the work shop for validation and recognition.
  • Kaizen Event planning:
    • The adviced time for this workshop is a maximum of 2 days, depending on the perimeter. The presence of all stakeholders is a must to be successful 
  • Preparation of the work shop:
    • An area must be selected by the head of the department, and following the improvement priority (derived from the strategic objectives – Hoshin Kanri).
    • Selection of the positions by the team leader and group leader
    • Information collection of the positions studied by the team leader
    • Preparatory observation (all participants)
    • Preparatory discussion with Team Leader operators
  • Define an improvement strategy and quantified objectives based on the problems observed and agreed with the management, some examples:
    • Reducing the number of trips (-20% operating time)
    • Elimination of 2 trunk twists (ergonomics) when picking up parts

Basic notions; it is desirable that all participants are knowledgable with them: 

  • The 4 principles of economy of movement:
    • Reduce the number of movements
    • Execute movements at the same time
    • Shortening movement distances
    • Make movements easier or ergonomic
  • Ability to identify non-value-added or wasteful activities:
    • Overproduction
    • Stocks
    • Maintenance
    • Production of defects
    • Non value-added operations
    • Inactivity
    • Useless movements
  • Improvement knowledge in the implementation of the job positions

Job observation:

  • The first step is the job observation at the shop floor (the Gemba), using different types of analysis for each job analyzed:
    • Analysis of the 7 types of waste
    • Operational sequences analysis (simplified timer)
    • Analysis of movements
    • Simplified ergonomic analysis (and safety)
    • Analysis of non-cyclical operations

Examples of the iKaizen mlean application to be introduced:

Analysis of the data collected:

  • Sharing the data collected:
    • It is a matter of pooling the data collected in the analyses and transferring it to A0 formats, usually by wallpapering the walls of a large work room. This will allow for group discussion.
  • Problems identification:
    • For each of the operating sequences of the job position:
      • We will record the details of each problem encountered, and provide a figure to it. Document Analysis of operating sequences
      • At this stage, we will never deep into a discussion of possible solutions. 

Preparation of improvement proposals:

We have identified, listed and coded the set of problems emerging from the various analyses.

The participation of all the members of the group is necessary through brainstorming. Everyone must participate, especially the operators present:

  • Each problem, taken in isolation, is the subject of a “5 why” analysis; the participants, once they have identified the root causes and have exchanged their proposals for improvement
  • For each improvement proposal, we will try to evaluate the gains (in terms of execution time, ergonomics …).

In addition, we will ensure that all improvement proposals will be based on the different improvement principles of each analysis carried out:

  • Principles of improvement of the 4 principles of Economy of Motion:
    • Example: If we have detected a problem with work with both hands simultaneously, or reduce the dead time of each hand to balance the left hand, right hand work.
  • Principles for improving movements:
    • Example: Bringing workplaces closer together, reducing distances, etc…
  • Ergonomics and safety improvement principles:
    • Example: Reducing stress by adjusting working heights or facilitating the choice of parts or tools.
  • Elimination of non-cyclical operations:
    • Example: Treat systematic anomalies (that lengthen the duty cycle) as a problem. Or reduce frequency operations
  • Principles for improving the balance of posts (if several posts are affected):
    • Example: Assigning each operator a complete process function or concentrating losses at the beginning or end of the process.

This phase will end with our list of identified problems, immediate (or short-term) improvement proposals and the expected benefits for each.

Execution of improvement proposals:

  • After reflecting on their feasibility, effectiveness and cost, the participants select the most appropriate among all the proposals. With the assignment of a person in charge and a commitment deadline.
  • Kaizen proposals that will be implemented immediately are separated from those that will not.

Testing, presentation and completion of the Kaizen event:

It is advisable to implement one or two trials to confirm the validity of the expected gains. In addition, we will have discussed the plan with the other actors who have not participated in the Kaizen event (other operators, Team Leader, Maintenance, etc…).

We will implement trials and action plans in the short to medium term. As we confirm the results, we will establish the new working standards and train all affected participants in the changes.

Management recognition of the team:

This is the leader’s moment, to show management’s commitment to continuous improvement. Recognize, not only the participation of the personnel, but also their contributions by describing problems or providing solutions. Show the need that the participation of “everyone” is essential to continue progressing towards sustainability. 

We are all important and we can all contribute! 

Digital application of Kaizen

As we have seen, the implementation of a Kaizen event requires the allocation of many resources, especially in terms of the number of people involved and a large number of documents. 

Especially the “bureaucracy” in compiling all the analyses in A0 formats. This forces us to move away from the Gemba and into a room far away from the posts in order to manage.

Today, with the mlean iKaizen application, not only are we paperless, but we can work directly on the Gemba, immediately see problems and deal with them quickly. 

Immediate benefits of the application:

  • Estimated time gain of 40% in the work shop (of each of the participants)
  • Immediacy and efficiency due to proximity to Gemba
  • We will avoid the loss of information associated with paper
  • We will ensure the capitalization of experience and traceability


if you have already the Basic Lean tools implemented in your factory and you want to improve event more, please Request a demo for the ikazen tool. 

Request a demo of our iKaizen Tool


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