How Kaas Tailored Adopted a Culture of Continuous Improvement

Who is Kaas Tailored?

Kaas Tailored is a furniture manufacturing facility located in Mukilteo, Washington. We have been making furniture and other upholstered solutions since 1974. Our founder, Larry Kaas, believed that custom furniture could be made better, and built Kaas Tailored on that conviction. That spirit of innovation continues at Kaas Tailored today.

Kaas Tailored’s Journey with Kaizen and Lean Manufacturing

In 1997, Larry Kaas retired, handing Kaas Tailored over to his son, Jeff Kaas, the current president. When Jeff took over, he was afraid of losing Kaas Tailored. Jeff wanted to find a way to reduce waste, increase profit, and, most importantly, create better jobs for his employees.

During this season, Boeing introduced the Kaas Tailored team to the concept of Kaizen. Kaizen is a Japanese word for continuous improvement. It means, “change which is good.” 

Kaizen and The Toyota Production System 

In 1999, Jeff took the Kaas Tailored team to Japan to learn about lean manufacturing at the Toyota factory. From the get-go, Jeff liked lean manufacturing. He appreciated the emphasis on reducing waste. But there was still a lot of learning to do. Initially, he thought reducing waste was just about changing actions. He slowly realized that reducing waste is a journey; it requires commitment.

How Kaas Tailored Adopted a Culture of Continuous Improvement 

As Jeff continued to learn about reducing waste, he realized that before any organization could start, they had to admit waste was a problem. Then they had to decide they wanted to change. Finally, the entire organization had to adopt a culture of continuous improvement together. Only then could change happen. 

As the team removed waste together, they began to see how individual kaizen tools replaced bad habits with good ones. True power came when they started to understand the principles and how they were woven into shared core beliefs about work and community. Jeff worked with the team to start adopting a culture of continuous improvement, creating lasting change. 

Continuous improvement as a culture is not a system or a method. It’s not a collection of tools. It’s not a list of materials you can purchase. It’s not a certification. It is a commitment from leadership to their staff, customers, suppliers, and community to stop creating waste and start creating value.

How Your Organization can Adopt a Culture of Continuous Improvement 

Kaas Tailored is a teaching factory. We choose to share what we have learned about continuous improvement with other businesses and organizations. We do this through our Kaas Waste Tours. We host these tours in our living, breathing manufacturing facility in Mukilteo, Washington.

During 2020, we are offering Virtual Waste Tours, so we can continue to work with guests to help them learn to reduce waste in a way that is safe for both our employees and our guests.

If you know that waste is a problem within your organization and you want to change, we would love to work with you to share what we have learned.

At Kaas Tailored, we talk a lot about continuous improvement as a culture. We use words like Bit, One-piece Flow, and Kaizen, which can feel confusing if you are just starting your journey. We have put together this small series that explains how we think and talk about reducing waste within our company so that you can have the vocabulary to start identifying waste within your world. Then, we can work together to help you start your own journey of continuous improvement.