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April 25 2007 09:01 AM

In part one of this series, we examined the important steps in preparing for a kaizen event. Now, as you start the first day of the kaizen event, there are several rules that must be established to the team at the beginning of the event. These rules are as follows:


>> Start the project and stop the project on time

>> Be open minded to all possible ideas

>> Ask questions there is no such thing as a dumb question

>> There is equal input with no hierarchies

>> Change is good the more the better

>> Respect other thoughts and feelings

>> Get involved

>> Work as a team

>> Take risks think outside of the box

>> Have FUN!   


The first thing that needs to be addressed is to teach the team the Lean methodology of the tool that is going to be utilized. This training should take about half of the first days activities. Depending on the Lean methodology being taught, there may be some training at the beginning of each day of the event. This training is crucial to the success of the project so the team can apply what they have learned to the area of study. Making the presentation into an interactive learning experience will greatly improve attention and retention.


Once the methodology has been taught, the next step is to examine the current state of the process under study and collect the relevant data. Review the layout of the area, and let the team walk the product/process flow. Then, gather the data, such as counting all work in process (WIP), quality data, scrap rate, takt time, changeovers, bottlenecks, square feet occupied by the current process, etc. Use the Standard Work sheet, which displays the process/machine and the quality checks, standard work in process, number of pieces in WIP, takt time and the number of operators. It shows the flow of the work and the operators path.


The next piece of current data you will want to obtain is timing the actual process. Talk to the operators before you do this, and explain that you are timing the process and not their work. People tend to work faster when they are being timed/observed.
Develop a checklist for the level of waste identified in the process, with 0 equalling no waste found; 1 is very little waste found; 2 is little waste found; 3 is considerable waste found; and 4 is a lot of waste found


Add up the numbers and enter the total. This will make it possible to rank the processes and operations according to the amount of waste found. This will guide you as to the areas to address first. The team will then brainstorm ideas for reducing or eliminating the wastes identified in the process. This is the time to really think outside of the box to look at all possible options. This may include layout change, operator movement adjustments, quality procedures built into the process and safety improvements. It is important to meet with the operators who will be involved in these new improvements so as to obtain their input and suggestions. Investigate the benefits of all ideas and see if they will reduce/eliminate waste.


Once agreed upon, test the new improvements and train the operators. Observe and record the new cycle times, and note any problems. Calculate all the savings from the elimination of the waste lead time reduction, operator movements, reduced travel time of parts, overall lead time, etc.


After the new improvements have been thoroughly tested and are improved over the previous current state, now is the time to standardize the procedures. These are written SOPs that tell the operators how to best perform their processes. They are to be posted in the area of the operation and also kept on file for auditing purposes.


The next step is to develop the implementation plan for all the action items that could not be completed during the kaizen event. It is not uncommon to have 10 to 12 action items that need to be completed. The implementation plan will have listed the action item, the person responsible for the item and the date it is to be completed. It is best to have these completed within 60 days, although 30 days is preferred.


The final step is to complete the calculation of the savings based on the improvements from the current state to the future state. To do this, you must calculate the timesaving from the previous process time (current) to the new reduced process time (future). Then you want to calculate the operators fully loaded cost (hourly wage + benefits). This will give the team the ability to calculate the savings. There are two types of savings: hard and soft. Hard savings are savings where the benefits are immediate, such as a reduction in overtime hours or operator productivity increase. Conversely, soft savings are when the savings are only realized after they are used. An example is a reduction of square footage used. The benefit is that square footage was gained, but it does not become a hard savings until the saved space is actually used. Until it does, it will remain a soft saving.


Once the kaizen event is complete, a final report will be created to present to management. It will briefly cover the events of the project, including before and after pictures and metrics. The project results will also be shared with the rest of the facility. This will allow others to ask questions, and it will prepare them for when a kaizen event is performed in their area, since they will then be a member. It is essential to communicate the project progress throughout the event to the entire facility.


After the kaizen event, it is important to audit the results at 30-, 60- and 90-day intervals. Results must be monitored and improvements continually made to achieve optimal long-lasting change. If you are new to the process of running a kaizen event or the process is very detailed, you may want to consider outside experts.


Richard Kay is President of RGK Lean Consulting and has over 16 years of experience in manufacturing and distribution. He can be reached at