Organizing & Running Kaizen Events

Many manufacturing companies find themselves struggling to stay afloat due to inadequate or inefficient business practices and maybe unaware how to put on a kaizen event. Developed by the Toyota Corporation is "Kaizen," which is "continual improvement" in Japanese.

Kaizen events are usually week-long events that manufacturers like you can use to understand where the faults in the business lie and improve those business practices.

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The key to becoming successful through Kaizen events is utilizing "TIMWOOD" and "5S" steps. You will find an explanation of each, along with how to plan and run a Kaizen event in your company.

TIMWOOD: Seven Wastes of Lean

"TIMWOOD" is an easy way to remember the "Seven Wastes of Lean" that are described to be a hindrance to many corporations.

TIMWOOD - Transport, Inventory, Movement, Waiting, Overproduction, Overprocessing, Defects

TIMWOOD - Transport, Inventory, Movement, Waiting, Overproduction, Overprocessing, Defects

Transportation, while important, if used in excess can cause many problems that waste time and money. Excess transportation could result in damaged, lost or delayed items.

Inventory that is excess or out of date, taking up shelf space, is an instant loss for the business. An item sitting on a shelf is not making you any money.

Motion can be a huge waste of time. If items or tools are not placed strategically for easy access, there is time spent retrieving it and less time doing your job.

Waiting can be a problem in many different areas of business. If the buyer does not order parts on time, manufacturing is not working until those parts arrive. Depending on the situation, sometimes waiting hours can be just as devastating to a company as waiting days or weeks.

Over-Production is a pretty big piece as it can result in inventory waste as well. Over-producing can lead to longer shelf times and possibly result in leftover items if there is a rev change or an old change order was given.

Over-Processing leads to wasted time, wasted material, and unhappy customers. There is a reason for a-la-cart services: to charge for that extra item instead of doing more for less.

Defects, while very common, will not only waste your business's time and money but in the end, if sent out to a customer, may also lose their business.

5S: Steps to Improvement


Within the Kaizen event, there are five steps that, when used correctly and maintained throughout the life of the business, can help to ensure success. Because Toyota developed Kaizen, the 5S words are Japanese words. Below are those words with the English translation of each.

Sieri (Sort): Remove unwanted or unnecessary items from your workspace around you. Too many times you will discover that your work area will become overrun with parts, tools, coffee mugs, and other items causing unneeded chaos.

Seiton (Set in Order): All of those unnecessary things that are listed above, have a place of their own. When items are missing from their proper locations, they can become difficult to find the next time you need them, which in turn wastes valuable time when you have to go searching for them.

Seiso (Shine): By implementing "sort" and "set in order," you can quickly reach the step to "shine," which is keeping our areas clean. Again, cleanliness means less chaos and higher productivity.

Seiketsu (Standardise): There are three items listed above to be successful and must be a standard within your organization. If they are not set and followed up as a standard, disorganization and chaos will creep back in, and your efforts will be for nothing.

Shitsuke (Sustain): As mentioned with standardizing, the most important part of the 5S system is to "Sustain" the practices that you have put in place for every single employee in your business. Everyone must be on board to be successful!

Kaizen Event Planning

Now that you understand what the end goals are for Kaizen events, you will need to know the kaizen event steps needed to be successful.

Kaizen Event Process

Hire a Facilitator for the Kaizen event.

You will need to either hire or put someone in charge that works for you, that already knows and understands the steps to directing a successful Kaizen. Without a knowledgeable facilitator, there is a likely chance that steps will be overlooked or done incorrectly.

Assure you have support from your management team.

If your management team is not 100% involved and on board with the Kaizen, there will be cracks in the system and will lead to a breakdown in the structure that you worked so hard to put into place.

Determine the areas of your business that you will focus on for Kaizen.

It is preferred that if the Kaizen event is taking place in your manufacturing department that you hold the Kaizen event around your production area. By doing this, you give everyone an "eyes on" experience. Some people in Kaizen may have never set foot on the manufacturing floor before and therefore could find it difficult to understand what needs to be improved.

Create teams to work on areas that you want improvement.

Make sure you have a team lead for each team to keep everyone on point. Each team must be successful to achieve the desired results. It is important to assign leads or managers from specific areas because they understand more than anyone what those end goals are for their department. Reach out to other areas of the business to be involved in the Kaizen event as well. Fresh ideas can come from anywhere.

What specific types of performance measures is the Kaizen Event focused on improving?

It is critical to figure out exactly what these measurements are so that the current measurement can be defined and compared against new measurements after the event is complete.

Some examples of these performance measurements are:

  • Lead Time
  • Inventory
  • Proficiency Output
  • Quality Management

Pre-Planning is a significant step for your Kaizen Event

Pre-Planning is where the Kaizen facilitator can bring everyone together to develop a plan for each day of the Kaizen. By having this completed before the Kaizen event, there will be less time wasted. You will need every minute to be productive in acquiring your end goals.

Planning includes marking out areas for the teams to meet. Provide the tools within these areas to plan and work through ideas and process improvements, such as easels, whiteboards, markers, etc. Arrange for lunch to be brought in to avoid extra time away from the event.

Request that everyone involved do everything in their power to be on time each day and present for the entire Kaizen event.

Request that laptops, phones, and other distractions be kept out of the Kaizen and only used during breaks or before/after work. Assign others that are not involved in the Kaizen to fill in for those who are so that job performance is not lacking during that time.

The Kaizen event has begun.

Each team should work together to focus on and achieve the end goal. The teams analyze current measurements and identify solutions on where to improve. It is important that every person on each team play a part in the Kaizen Event. Everyone has important roles and views that should be analyzed to come up with the best solutions and improvements possible. If anything is left unfinished, be sure to write all of those items down and give the leftover items to the Facilitator or team lead. They will need to check back for completion and verification in the weeks after the Kaizen.

After the individual teams have reached their end goal, they will each present their findings and ideas to the other groups.

Their findings allow for everyone to have a chance to give and receive feedback. It is not only essential for helping to find any weak areas that may exist, but it also gives the teams a chance to show off their skills and feel that they have done something positive for the company.

Your teams deserve a reward for a job well done!

Let them know that their hard work has not gone unappreciated. Kaizen events typically last a week and, as many of us know, a week of pushing your brain to the limit can be exhausting.

Continuous improvement is key to any successful business.

Don't throw away the work that you and your team went through. Be diligent in making sure that everyone is always looking for ways to improve the business. Even if it is small, it will be more effective than doing nothing.

Key Takeaways

The kaizen events have proven to be successful tools in the area of continuous improvement for an organization. By utilizing "TIMWOOD" and the "5S" steps with your Kaizen event before it becomes too late to be successful, you could not only save the company from disaster but make a huge impact on improving your process for the better.

Author: Eric Raio

Eric Raio is one of the founders of Factory Solutions. When he isn't plotting new ways to create awesome software. He likes to geek out about flying drones and technology.

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