What is Kaizen process?

The history of Kaizen begins after World War II when Toyota first implemented quality circles in its production process. Word “kaizen”, where “kai” = change “zen” = good, simply means “change for better”. In English kaizen typically means measures for implementing continuous improvement. Kaizen is an approach to activity organisation based on common sense, self-discipline, order and economy. Kaizen method is a strong contributor and fundamental part of a lean production process model in lean manufacturing.

Kaizen Lean

It is a daily activity with a goal that goes beyond improvement. It is also a process that, when done correctly, makes the workplace more human: it eliminates hard work (both mentally and physically) and it teaches people to see and eliminate the wastes in a process.
The Kaizen approach consists of 5 founding elements :
  • teamwork,
  • personal discipline,
  • improved morale,
  • quality circles,
  • suggestions for improvement.


A Kaizen event is a project from problem to implementation of solutions. And all in a short time frame of a few days. The goal is to save costs, increase quality, shorten delivery times or increase customer satisfaction.

Requirements Kaizen-event:

  • The problem must be urgent and have a limited scope and complexity.
  • The employees involved must be 100% available during the Kaizen event.
  • It’s always with people from the process.
  • The method, at the activity level, is usually zoomed in.
  • First, look for creative solutions before you need to spend money.
  • Ask as much as possible (5x why) to get to the heart of causes.
  • Implement good solutions, don’t keep looking for the perfect solution (keep pace).
  • A plan is only good if it can be implemented and a plan is only successful if the success is guaranteed.

At the end of the project, Kaizen can be used to achieve a continuous improvement culture.

Improvement circle Kaizen event

A Kaizen event goes through 6 steps, which correspond to the DMAIC-method. See below circle.


Step-by-step plan from the improvement circle, in brief:
  1. Define the problem and the objective. What’s the real problem now? What’s the goal? Formulate the goal as clearly as possible.
  2. Measure the facts. Go to the Gemba. Go check out the shop floor. Visual image the process with a value stream map.
  3. Collect data to clearly map the problem. Analyze the facts. Brainstorm about the causes. Ask as much as possible (5x why). For example, create an Ishikawa-diagram. Select the biggest causes of the problem.
  4. Generate improvements in the causes. Brainstorm improvements.
  5. Implement improvements. Rank the improvements. Create and execute a deployment plan.
  6. Check and bail. Make sure the problem is resolved. Capture the solution. Write a new way of working and communicate about it.


Kaizen and Lean

Lean focuses on eliminating waste. It is a method that focuses on efficiency. A flexible working environment is being developed in which the customer is central and where waste is eliminated as much as possible. Lean is a collective term for methods that focus on process improvement and eliminating waste. Part of these methods is Kaizen.
Kaizen actually goes a step further. It does not stop at eliminating waste. Kaizen is all about continuous improvement. You continuously improve your organization, changing it. Take a look at Toyota’s factory and how they use Kaizen to continuously improve: