Monday, September 8, 2014


Kaizen, a Japanese term that basically translates to 'continuous improvement' or 'change to become good', is a management concept originated by the Japanese in order to continuously effect incremental changes for the better, involving everybody within the organization from workers to managers. Kaizen is aimed at producing more and more value with less and less wastes (higher efficiency), attaining better working environment, and developing stable processes by standardization.

This never-ending process of achieving small improvements within the company everyday is in contrast to trying to achieve breakthrough results from a large improvement once in a while. Kaizen as a management technique is therefore more suitable for organizations with a collective culture that is trying to achieve long-term gains from a continuous supply of small and less radical contributions from its employees.

Kaizen implementation is said to operate on the following principles: 1) that human resources are the company's most important asset; 2) that success can not be achieved by some occasional radical changes alone, but more so by incremental yet consistently arriving improvements; and 3) that improvements must be based on a statistical or quantitative study of the performance of the process.

Thus, under Kaizen, everyone is a valued contributor to the company's success, and must therefore be given the necessary education and training in order to contribute in his or her own way on a continuous basis. Everyone in the organization must genuinely believe in the idea of Kaizen and strive to achieve one small goal at a time, each of which is considered a step towards the company's over-all success.

Every person must therefore be willing to: 1) learn; 2) communicate; 3) be disciplined; 4) get involved; and 5) change in order to maximize gains from Kaizen. Management must also be able to support this Kaizen structure by aligning resources, metrics, rewards, and incentives to Kaizen principles, encouraging all employees to contribute in their own ways.

Management programs that promote Kaizen include but are not limited to the following: 1) employee suggestion systems; 2) recognition systems for employees who exert effort for continuous improvement; 3) group-oriented suggestion or improvement systems like Quality Circles (small groups that perform quality improvement activities); 4) JIT; 5) 5-S; 6) Total Productive Maintenance; and 7) Total Quality Management.

Kaizen's Business Tenets:
  1. Not a single day should pass without any kind of improvement anywhere in the company.
  2. Improvement strategies must be driven by customer requirements and satisfaction.
  3. Quality must always take a higher priority over profits.
  4. Employees must be encouraged to recognize problems and suggest improvements to address these problems.
  5. Problems must be solved by a collaborative and systematic approach through cross-functional teams.
  6. Process-oriented thinking (as opposed to results-oriented thinking) must be practiced by everyone, so that every process gets continuously improved from time to time.

6-Sigma refers to a quality improvement and business strategy concept started by Motorola in the United States in 1987. In statistical terms, 6-Sigma is the abbreviated form of 6 standard deviations from the mean, which mathematically translates to about 2 defects per billion. Thus, strictly speaking, your process is said to have achieved 6-sigma if it is producing no more than 2 defects per billion parts produced.

No company is probably nearly perfect enough to achieve this quality level. Consequently, the term 6-Sigma in the industry has somehow taken on the equivalent defect rate of 3.4 ppm, which in reality corresponds to roughly 4.5 sigmas. Thus, in the industry today, a person speaking of 6-sigma is most likely referring to a quality level equivalent to 3.4 defects per million.

Regardless of how one wishes to use the term 6-sigma, though, it is apparent that its purpose when its concept was first incepted is to make processes as consistent as possible in order to reduce the defect rates of their outputs. Consistency of meeting customer specifications as well as the probability of meeting them consistently in the future is the essence of 6-sigma. To see how the number of sigmas relates to the process Cpk and the process ppm level, please refer to the Cpk/ppm Table.

6-Sigma has evolved into a continuous, disciplined, and structured process of improving operations to make products that are consistently meeting customer requirements. In effect, 6-Sigma no longer simply means excellent finished products, but more importantly, excellent processes, services, and administration. When Motorola started 6-Sigma in the 80's, it was applied to repetitive manufacturing processes. Presently, however, the use of 6-Sigma is well-established in almost all aspects of doing business in a wide range of industries.

6-Sigma encourages leanness, simplicity, and doing things right the first time, so that wastes and corresponding costs are avoided. Statistics-based problem solving, results-orientation, and quantifiable top and bottom-line returns are also ingredients of 6-Sigma. Lastly, 6-Sigma is driven by the voice of the customer.

6-Sigma has spawned several Project Management methods, the most widely-used of which are discussed below.

Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control (DMAIC)

'DMAIC' stands for the following:
  1. Define opportunities, i.e., project goals in relation to customer requirements;
  2. Measure the current performance of the process;
  3. Analyze the weakness of the process (such as sources of defects); this process weakness is also the opportunity for its improvement;
  4. Improve the performance of the process by addressing its weaknesses; and
  5. Control the performance of the improved process to sustain its gains.
The DMAIC method is employed in situations wherein a product or process already exists but it is not meeting customer specifications.

The 5 'S' Process: Seiri, Seiton, Seiso, Seiketsu, Shitsuke

The 5S Process, or simply "5S", is a structured program to systematically achieve total organization, cleanliness, and standardization in the workplace. A well-organized workplace results in a safer, more efficient, and more productive operation. It boosts the morale of the workers, promoting a sense of pride in their work and ownership of their responsibilities.

"5S" was invented in Japan, and stands for five (5) Japanese words that start with the letter 'S': Seiri, Seiton, Seiso, Seiketsu, and Shitsuke. Table 1 shows what these individual words mean. An equivalent set of five 'S' words in English have likewise been adopted by many, to preserve the "5S" acronym in English usage. These are: Sort, Set (in place), Shine, Standardize, and Sustain. Some purists do not agree with these English words - they argue that these words have lost the essence of the original 5 Japanese words.

Table 1. 5S Definitions

Japanese Term

English Equivalent
Meaning in Japanese Context

Seiri - Tidiness
Throw away all rubbish and unrelated materials in the workplace

Seiton - Orderliness
Set everything in proper place for quick retrieval and storage

Seiso - Cleanliness
Clean the workplace; everyone should be a janitor

Seiketsu - Standardization
Standardize the way of maintaining cleanliness

Shitsuke - Discipline
Practice 'Five S' daily - make it a way of life; this also means 'commitment'


The first step of the "5S" process, seiri, refers to the act of throwing away all unwanted, unnecessary, and unrelated materials in the workplace. People involved in Seiri must not feel sorry about having to throw away things. The idea is to ensure that everything left in the workplace is related to work. Even the number of necessary items in the workplace must be kept to its absolute minimum. Because of seiri, simplification of tasks, effective use of space, and careful purchase of items follow.


Seiton, or orderliness, is all about efficiency. This step consists of putting everything in an assigned place so that it can be accessed or retrieved quickly, as well as returned in that same place quickly. If everyone has quick access to an item or materials, work flow becomes efficient, and the worker becomes productive. The correct place, position, or holder for every tool, item, or material must be chosen carefully in relation to how the work will be performed and who will use them. Every single item must be allocated its own place for safekeeping, and each location must be labeled for easy identification of what it's for.


Seiso, the third step in "5S", says that 'everyone is a janitor.' Seiso consists of cleaning up the workplace and giving it a 'shine'. Cleaning must be done by everyone in the organization, from operators to managers. It would be a good idea to have every area of the workplace assigned to a person or group of persons for cleaning. No area should be left uncleaned. Everyone should see the 'workplace' through the eyes of a visitor - always thinking if it is clean enough to make a good impression.


The fourth step of "5S", or seiketsu, more or less translates to 'standardized clean-up'. It consists of defining the standards by which personnel must measure and maintain 'cleanliness'. Seiketsu encompasses both personal and environmental cleanliness. Personnel must therefore practice 'seiketsu' starting with their personal tidiness. Visual management is an important ingredient of seiketsu. Color-coding and standardized coloration of surroundings are used

for easier visual identification of anomalies in the surroundings. Personnel are trained to detect abnormalities using their five senses and to correct such abnormalities immediately.


The last step of "5S", Shitsuke, means 'Discipline.' It denotes commitment to maintain orderliness and to practice the first 4 S as a way of life. The emphasis of shitsuke is elimination of bad habits and constant practice of good ones. Once true shitsuke is achieved, personnel voluntarily observe cleanliness and orderliness at all times, without having to be reminded by management.

Design for Six Sigma (DFSS)

'DFSS' is the acronym for Design for Six Sigma. Unlike, the DMAIC, there is no single or standard definition of what steps or phases the DFSS process consists of. It is generally up to the company to define the steps needed to design its processes to be capable of 6-sigma quality level, i.e., 3.4 ppm. DFSS may therefore be customized to the nature of business and culture of the practicing company. DFSS is generally used when designing a new product or completely redesigning an existing one from scratch.

Define, Measure, Analyze, Design, and Verify (DMADV)
'DMADV' stands for the following:
  1. Define opportunities, i.e., project goals in relation to customer requirements;
  2. Measure and determine customer requirements and how competitors are serving these requirements;
  3. Analyze your process options to meet these customer needs;
  4. Design your process to meet these customer needs; and
  5. Verify the performance of the process, particularly in terms of its ability to meet customer requirements.
The DMADV method is employed in situations wherein there is no existing process or product yet catering to a certain customer requirement, and the company wants to develop one for that purpose.

1 comment:

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