Continuous Improvement Firm

Radical Improvement (Kaikaku): Kore 10 Tips

Kaizen Mindset

Kaizen: 5 Principles

Kaizen Culture: 8 Key Elements

Implementing Kaizen: 7 Conditions


Analytical Approach (to management improvement) - an approach based on learning from the evaluation of past experience.

Andon - a system of flashing lights used to indicate production status in one or more work centers; the number of lights and their possible colors can vary, even by work center within a plant; however, the traditional colors and their meanings are:

    green no problems
    yellow situation requires attention
    red production stopped; attention urgently needed

Autonomation (English translation of Jidohka) a form of automation in which machinery automatically inspects each item after producing it, ceasing production and notifying humans if a defect is detected; Toyota expands the meaning of jidohka to include the responsibility of all workers to function similarly, i.e. to check every item produced and to make no more if a defect is detected, until the cause of the defect has been identified and corrected.

Baka-yoke a manufacturing technique of preventing mistakes by designing the manufacturing process, equipment, and tools so that an operation literally cannot be performed incorrectly; an attempt to perform incorrectly, as well as being prevented, is usually met with a warning signal of some sort; the term "poka-yoke" is sometimes referred to as a system where only a warning is provided.

Cellular Manufacturing an approach in which manufacturing work centers [cells] have the total capabilities needed to produce an item or group of similar items; contrasts to setting up work centers on the basis of similar equipment or capabilities, in which case items must move among multiple work centers before they are completed; the term group technology is sometimes used to distinguish cells that produce a relatively large family [group] of similar items.



Check Points and Control Points used in measuring the progress of improvement-related activities between different managerial levels. Check points represent process-oriented criteria. Control points represent result-oriented criteria. What is the check point to a manager becomes a control point to the next-level manager. For this reason, check points and control points are also used in policy deployment.

Continuous Improvement Firm (CIF) a firm continuously improving on the value that customers perceive in its products due to improvements in productivity initiated by the members of the general work force.

Continuous Improvement Firm

Productivity in CIF is broadly defined to include all facets of product quality as well as output per worker. A basic operating principle of the CIF is that improvements in product quality often produce simultaneous reductions in costs. The ultimate competitive goal of the CIF is the ability to produce consumer goods on a custom basis for almost instantaneous delivery at costs lower than those featured by standard mass production firms. The flexible CIF ideally produces to customer demand. The key to achieving this flexibility and lower unit cost lies in generalization of the work force. (See also "3 Basic Principles of Continuous Improvement")

Kaizen Culture: 8 Key Elements

Cross-Functional Management the inter-departmental coordination required to realize the policy goals of a Kaizen and Total Quality Control (TQC) program. After corporate strategy and planning are determined, top management sets objectives for cross-functional efforts that cut laterally throughout the organization. Cross functional management is the major organizational tool for realizing TQC improvement goals. It is distinguished by an intensive focus on the follow-through to achieve the success of goals and measures. >>>

Company-Wide Quality Control (CWQC) see "Total Quality Control (TQC)"

8 Rules for Quality Management

Cycle Time - the normal time to complete an operation on a product. This in NOT the same as takt time, which is the allowable time to produce one product at the rate customers are demanding it.

Deming Cycle the concept of continuously rotating wheel used by W. E. Deming to emphasize the necessity of constant interaction among research, design, production, and sales so as to arrive at an improved quality that satisfies customers (see PDCA Cycle).

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Design Approach (to management improvement) tries to build a better approach through predetermined goals.

Flexible Manufacturing System (FMS) an integrated manufacturing capability to produce small numbers of a great variety of items at low unit cost; an FMS is also characterized by low changeover time and rapid response time.

Heijunka a production scheduling / load leveling tool, essentially to distribute kamban cards in an efficient manner.

Improvement as a part of a successful Kaizen strategy, "improvement" goes beyond the dictionary definition of the word. Improvement is a mindset of maintaining and improving standards. In a still broader sense, improvement can be defined as Kaizen and Innovation, where a Kaizen strategy maintains and improves working standards through small, gradual improvements, and innovation calls for radical improvements as a result of large investments in technology, processes, and/or equipment. The Kaizen strategy clearly delineates responsibilities: workers are to maintain standards, and managers are to improve standards. The Japanese perception of management boils down to one precept: maintain and improve standards. 

Kaizen Mindset

Jidohka see "Autonomation"

Jishu Kanri self-management, or voluntary participation.

Just-In-Time (JIT) a process broadly aimed at increasing value-added and eliminating waste; a production scheduling and inventory control technique that calls for any item needed at a production operation - whether raw material, finished item, or anything in between, to be produced and available precisely when needed, neither a moment earlier nor a moment later. JIT was designed at Toyota specifically to cut waste in production... More

Jutsu the art of something (i.e., 'leanjutsu: the art of lean production').

Kaikaku A rapid and radical change process, sometimes used as a precursor to Kaizen activities.

Radical Improvement (Kaikaku): 10 Tips

See also 10 Kaikaku Commandments

Kaizen the philosophy of continual improvement, that every process can and should be continually evaluated and improved in terms of time required, resources used, resultant quality, and other aspects relevant to the process. When applied to the workplace, Kaizen means continuing improvement involving everyone managers and workers alike. Kaizen is not limited to manufacturing systems only. It also means continuing improvement in personal life, home life, social life, and working life.

Kaizen: 5 Principles

Implementing Kaizen: 7 Conditions

Kamban a communication tool in the "just-in-time" production and inventory control system which authorizes production or movement. It was developed by Taiichi Ohno at Toyota. Kamban is a card or signboard ( or any other authorizing device) that is attached to specific parts in the production line signifying the delivery of a given quantity. The quantity authorized per individual kamban is minimal, ideally one. The number of circulating or available kamban for an item is determined by the demand rate for the item and the time required to produce or acquire more. This number generally is established and remains unchanged unless demand or other circumstances are altered dramatically; in this way inventory is kept under control while production is forced to keep pace with shipment volume. A routine exception to this rule is that managers and workers are continually exhorted to improve their processes and thereby reduce the number of kamban required. When fully implemented, kamban (the plural is the same as the singular) operates according to the following rules:

  • All production and movement of parts and material take place only as required by a downstream operation, i.e. all manufacturing and procurement are ultimately driven by the requirements of final assembly or the equivalent.

  • Kamban have various formats and content as appropriate for their usage; for example, a kamban for a vendor is different than a kamban for an internal machining operation.

Karoshi death from overwork.

Lean Production or Lean Manufacturing the philosophy of continually reducing waste in all areas and in all forms; an English phrase coined to summarize Japanese manufacturing techniques (specifically, the Toyota Production System).

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Example of a Truly Lean Value Chain

Line Balancing equalizing cycle times [productive capacity, assuming 100% capacity utilization] for relatively small units of the manufacturing process, through proper assignment of workers and machines; ensures smooth production flow.



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The Toyota Way: 14 Principles

Toyota Production System

8 Rules for Quality Management

Areas Targeted by TQM in Japan



Maintenance activities that are directed to maintaining current technological, managerial, and operating standards.

Mixed-model production capability to produce a variety of models, that in fact differ in labor and material content, on the same production line; allows for efficient utilization of resources while providing rapid response to marketplace demands.

Mokeru the Japanese term for the industrial engineering, more properly translated as "profit-making industrial engineering"

Muda (waste) activities and results to be eliminated; within manufacturing, categories of waste, according to Shigeo Shingo, include:

  1. Overproduction excess production and early production

  2. Waiting waste time spent at the machine; delays

  3. Transportation waste involved in the movement and transportation of units

  4. Processing waste in processing; poor process design

  5. Inventory waste in taking inventory

  6. Motion actions of people or machinery that do not add value to the product

  7. Defective units production of an item that is scrapped or required rework

(See also 3 Broad Types of Waste: Unreasonableness, Inconsistence, Waste Activity)

Mura inconsistency

Muri unreasonableness

Nagara smooth production flow, ideally one piece at a time, characterized by synchronization [balancing] of production processes and maximum utilization of available time, including overlapping of operations where practical.

Ninjutsu the art of invisibility (applies to management)

PDCA Cycle (plan, do, check, action) an adaptation of the Deming wheel. While the Deming wheel stresses the need for constant interaction among research, design, production, and sales, the PDCA Cycle asserts that every managerial action can be improved by careful application of the sequence: plan, do, check, action. Later Deming modified PDCA to "Plan, Do, Study, Act" (PDSA) so as to better describe the nature of continuous improvement. (see also SDCA Cycle).

Poka-Yoke a defect warning system

Policy (in Japanese management) describes long- and medium-range management orientations as well as annual goals or targets. Another aspect of policy is that it is composed of both goals and measures. Goals are usually quantitative figures established by top management, such as sales, profit, and market share targets. Measures, on the other hand, are the specific action programs to achieve these goals. A goal that is not expressed in terms of such specific measures is merely a slogan. It is imperative that top management determine both the goals and the measures and then "deploy" them down throughout the organization.



Policy Deployment the process of implementing the policies of a Kaizen program directly through line managers and indirectly through cross-functional organization.

Policy Prioritization a technique to ensure maximum utilization of resources at all levels of management in the process of policy deployment. Top management's policy statement must be restated at all management levels in increasingly specific and action oriented goals, eventually becoming precise quantitative values.

Pull System a process for production by reducing inventories; a manufacturing planning system based on communication of actual real-time needs from downstream operations ultimately final assembly or the equivalent as opposed to a push system which schedules upstream operations according to theoretical downstream results based on a plan which may not be current.

5S refers to the five words seiri, seiton, seison, seiketsu, shitsuke. These words are shorthand expressions for principles of maintaining an effective, efficient workplace

         seiri eliminating everything not required for the work being performed

         seiton efficient placement and arrangement of equipment and material

         seison tidiness and cleanliness

         seiketsu ongoing, standardized, continually improving seiri, seiton, seison

         shitsuke discipline with leadership

(Like many concepts, the 5S can be interpreted narrowly or broadly, depending on circumstances of their use.)

SDCA Cycle (standardize, do, check, action) a refinement of the PDCA Cycle wherein management decides first to establish the standard before performing the regular PDCA function.

Seiban - the name of a Japanese management practice taken from the Japanese words "sei", which means manufacturing, and "ban", which means number. A Seiban number is assigned to all parts, materials, and purchase orders associated with a particular customer job, or with a project, or anything else. This enables a manufacturer to track everything related with a particular product, project, or customer. It also facilitates setting aside inventory for specific projects or priorities. That makes it great for project and build-to-order manufacturing.

Sensei - one who provides information; a teacher, instructor, or rabbi.

Setup Time - work required to change over a machine or process from one item or operation to the next item or operation; can be divided into two types:

internal: setup work that can be done only when the machine or process is not actively engaged in production; OR

external: setup work that can be done concurrently with the machine or process performing production duties.

Setup-Time Reduction a process for improving production by reducing inventories

Shojinka - continually optimizing the number of workers in a work center to meet the type and volume of demand imposed on the work center; shojinka requires workers trained in multiple disciplines; work center layout, such as U-shaped or circular, that supports a variable number of workers performing the tasks in the layout; the capability to vary the manufacturing process as appropriate to fit the demand profile.

Single Minute Exchange of Die (SMED) literally, changing a die on a forming or stamping machine in a minute or less; broadly, the ability to perform any setup activity in a minute or less of machine or process downtime; the key to doing this is frequently the capability to convert internal setup time to external setup time; variations on SMED include:

  • Single-digit setup performing a setup activity in a single-digit number of minutes, i.e. fewer than ten.

  • One touch exchange of die (OTED) literally, changing a die with one physical motion such as pushing a button; broadly, an extremely simple procedure for performing a setup activity.

Takt Time takt, is a German term for rhythm. Takt time is the allowable time to produce one product at the rate customers are demanding it. This is NOT the same as cycle time, which is the normal time to complete an operation on a product (which should be less than or equal to takt time).

Teian a proposal, proposition, or suggestion. A teian system can be likened to a system which allows and encourages workers to actively propose process and product improvements.

Total Quality Control (TQC) - organized Kaizen activities involving everyone in the company - managers and workers - in a totally integrated effort toward improving performance at every level. This improved performance is directed toward satisfying such cross-functional goals as quality, cost, scheduling, manpower development, and new product development. It is assumed that these activities ultimately lead to increased customer satisfaction. (Also referred to as CWQC Company-Wide Quality Control.)

Areas Targeted by TQM in Japan

Toyota changed from the true form, Toyoda, meaning abundant rice field, by the Toyota marketing department. Toyoda is the family name of the founders of the Toyota Motor Company.

The Toyota Way: 14 Principles

Toyota Production System see "Lean Production"

WCM world class manufacturing is the philosophy of being the best, the fastest, and the lowest cost producer of a product or service. It implies the constant improvement of products , processes, and services to remain an industry leader and provide the best choice for customers, regardless of where they are in the process.