What is Kaizen?

Kaizen, Change Which is Good

Kaizen was made famous by the Toyota Manufacturing System, the system that has become the impetus to lean manufacturing as we know it today. Kaizen (改善) essentially means “change which is good.”

When applied correctly, Kaizen reduces waste while humanizing the workplace. Kaizen is for everyone in an organization—from the CEO to the front lines. By teaching each employee to see and reduce waste in their daily work, employees are able to reduce overly hard work (called “muri”) and learn to continuously improve, reducing waste in the process. 

The Difference Between Lean Manufacturing and Kaizen

When employees hear lean, they often think, “Fewer Employees Are Needed.” While it’s true that lean manufacturing (also known as lean production) is a way for organizations to minimize waste within a manufacturing system without sacrificing productivity, the original purpose of the lean manufacturing systems, like the Toyota Production System and learnings from “The Toyota Way,” was to value people first. Jeffrey Liker put it like this in The Toyota Way: “The Toyota way means more dependence on people, not less. It is a culture, even more than a set of efficiency and improvement techniques.” 

Kaas Tailored, Kaizen, and Continuous Improvement 

In 1998, after an introduction from Boeing, Kaas Tailored began the journey with lean. We took our first group to Japan to tour a Toyota manufacturing facility and learn about lean manufacturing, “The Toyota Way,” and Kaizen.

As we started removing waste together, we began to see how the individual kaizen tools replaced our bad habits with good ones. We have taken what we learned from Kaizen, Lean Improvement, and the Toyota Way and turned it into our own culture of continuous improvement. Our team is committed to creating a culture of continuous improvement so that our workplace can be one of joy and learning. We see continuous improvement as a way to help our employees achieve their full potential while doing exceptional work. 

Adopt a Culture of Continuous Improvement in your Workplace

If you are interested in learning how to adopt a culture of continuous improvement in your workplace, we would love to hear from you. When we first started our journey with lean, the only way we could make progress was by copying other organizations, like Toyota. That is why (later on in our journey) we decided to become a teaching facility; so that we could help others in the same way Toyota helped us. 

We choose to share what we have learned about Kaizen and other continuous improvement principles with other businesses and organizations through our Kaas Waste Tours, which we host in our living, breathing manufacturing facility in Mukilteo, Washington.

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 a 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.