How Does One Lead a Successful Kaizen Event?


Continuous Improvement culture is slowly prevailing across the North American manufacturing sector and many companies are at the brink of launching their first Kaizen event – an action (e.g. a workshop, project, or session) that’s output is intended to result in incremental or rapid improvement of an existing process or area.

Martin Boersema, Continuous Improvement Specialist and Engineer at Shoplogix says “the goal of a Kaizen event can be different, depending on what you’re trying to achieve” whether that be adding a floor mat within a facility, moving a box closer to an operator, implementing a new training program or developing an advanced delivery system. But the end goal of your Kaizen event, no matter if it’s short or long-term, should be to drive change for the better within your organization.

So how do you set yourself up for success? According to Martin, here are five pro-tips that may help put the odds in your favour.

1) Avoid Solving Problems Alone

When it comes to pinpointing problem areas within a process, it’s best to consult those that have been trained to fill that responsibility. Avoid coming in with your own agenda and hear out the voices of those at the forefront, for example, an operator that is impacted by an idle machine or a machine suffering from micro stoppages. Taking this collaborative approach will help the team collectively identify the root cause of an issue and allow for improved techniques to take shape. Start by asking employees about the difficulties they endure daily, how they deal with them on the job, and what they think could be effective solutions.

2) Set Your Expectations Accordingly

A single Kaizen event is not an end-to-end solution for a dysfunctional process and it’s important to keep that in mind. “Sometimes you don’t get an immediate ROI and you don’t always see an impact on the cycle of the process,” says Martin. The road to success is always under construction, and it’s important to recognize that repetition of these Continuous Improvement events will ultimately drive bottom-line results.

3) Consider the Length of Your Kaizen Event

While there are no rules set in stone for the ideal length of a Kaizen event, Martin explains that “a week can have a very big impact on the production activity and sometimes doesn’t make sense” considering the routine and job responsibilities of shop-floor employees. A good, first-time approach would be a two-day event; the initial day reserved for analysis and identifying improvement areas and the second to start implementing any imperative changes. This fast-paced strategy will allow you to conduct a test, where you can then work towards standardizing, sustaining, and formalizing any proposed changes.

4) Assemble a Strong Leadership Team

A successful Kaizen event requires good leadership and careful planning, without this employees lack the understanding of what is expected of them and it hinders their ability to engage and contribute ideas for change. Martin suggests “try to get good representatives with different perspectives.” When you have people, such as operators or supervisors, in the work cell that has always done things the same way, appointing an external party, such as a subject matter expert, to help facilitate can bring a fresh perspective forward.

5) Keep Direct Management Involved

According to Martin, a common pitfall is not keeping area managers aware of your motion to change a process that directly impacts their roles. Keeping these individuals on the same page is crucial to ensuring the deployment of your Kaizen event and failure to do so can lead to the scrapping of your entire proposition. Consider it a best practice to explain the event’s big-picture benefits to these direct managers and receive approval ahead of planning to avoid the possibility of a roadblock or pushback.

Now that you know how to lead a successful Kaizen event, find out how Shoplogix’s Continuous Improvement Software can support your Kaizen functionality and accelerate the growth of your enterprise.

Learn How Shoplogix Can Help Boost Your Kaizen Event

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