Kaizen is a Japanese word that means “improvement”. It originated from the Japanese business philosophy of continuous improvement. This business philosophy made Japanese manufacturing companies more efficient than their counterparts. This made companies in the USA also adopt this business philosophy in the late 1980s. Inasmuch as kaizen offers a lot of benefits to businesses, it also has its downside. Hence, you need to understand kaizen advantages and disadvantages if you are planning to adopt this quality improvement methodology.
Generally, a business needs continuous improvements to be able to meet and exceed customer’s expectations. This is where kaizen comes in. Kaizen offers a scientific approach to continuous improvements. In addition, it employs statistical tools and incorporates business values to improvements.
Furthermore, kaizen is based on the theory that a series of small improvements can cause a drastic change in business processes. Thus, kaizen encourages the input and creativity of employees in implementing changes. As a result, employees are always open to changes as a part of improvement.
To make this an easy read, we’ll focus on the main kaizen advantages and disadvantages, highlighting several benefits and limitations of kaizen.
Kaizen as a method of improvement is not only beneficial to the business. It is also beneficial to employees, customers and the organization as a whole. This management theory is applicable to most types of businesses. Kaizen recognizes and rewards the efforts of employees. By so doing, it gives them a sense of worth in the organization.
One of the major kaizen advantages is improved teamwork. Kaizen is a quality improvement tool driven by teamwork. It does not benefit only a selected few, but everyone involved in the business process. As the kaizen team solves problems together, they develop a bond and build team spirit. Thus, employees are able to work with a fresh perspective, an unbiased mind and without prejudice.
In addition, teamwork helps build cross-functional collaborations. Since skilled workers from different departments implement kaizen, team members are able to refine their skills. Most often, the biggest opportunities for improvement lies where one process flows into another. Cross-functional collaborations enable employees with different experiences to learn from one another and solve problems together. Therefore, this one kaizen advantage is that it improves teamwork and cooperation amongst employees.
Kaizen builds leadership skills
Every kaizen team must have a team leader. The team leader is responsible for organizing the kaizen team and coordinating implementation. The kaizen team leader makes sure that everyone is performing their roles successfully. The team leader is also responsible for sourcing for help when additional resources are required. Nevertheless, s/he does not have to be in a management role to qualify as a team leader. Thus, another kaizen advantage is that it presents an opportunity for employees to take on leadership roles.
A major kaizen advantage is improved efficiency. Kaizen improvements boost the quality of services. It helps businesses implement new process improvements, boost efficiency and enhance time management. For example, Toyota Manufacturing Company employs kaizen in its production process. First of all, they deploy muscle-memory training to train their employees on how to assemble a car. Muscle-memory training helps them to achieve accurate results. Hence, their employees are able to work with precision.
Also, immediately an automotive plant reaches its peak in terms of efficiency, the company removes a few workers from that plant. By so doing, Toyota Manufacturing is able to minimize errors and maximize productivity.
Improved Standard Work Document
Implementing changes during kaizen results to a new and improved Standard Work Document. Standard Work Document, also called standardized work, is a tool that forms the foundation of kaizen improvements. It contains the current best practice guiding a business. Sometimes, this is the main aim of implementing kaizen. In addition, Standard Work Document serves as the base for future improvements. It also serves as a tool for measuring employee performance and educating new employees about improvements. In essence, kaizen helps businesses develop a Standard Word Document.
Improved employee satisfaction
Another kaizen advantage is that it improves employee satisfaction. Kaizen involves the employees when implementing changes for improvements. Employees can make suggestions and creative input for changes through a suggestion system like team meetings. When employees are involved in decision making, it gives them a sense of belonging and worth. They are eager to implement changes and think of new ways to improve the processes. By so doing, the employees are motivated and productivity increases. Also, employees are more willing to take ownership of process improvements. Rather than falling back on old methods, they become advocates of quality improvements.
Improving safety on the work floor is a kaizen advantage for business. Safety is improved when businesses implement ideas that clean up and organize workspace. By so doing, employees have better control of business process equipment. Employees are also encouraged to make suggestions to improve safety on the work floor. This helps to minimize accidents and other related injuries. Hence, employees become more efficient and manage their time properly. However, safety is a responsibility of management as well.
Kaizen reduces wastes in business processes. This is another major kaizen advantage. Kaizen is the responsibility of everyone. Therefore, management and staff are responsible for identifying areas that constitute waste in the business process. By implementing constant changes, they can determine the root cause of wastage and fix them. By so doing, waste is eradicated from the business process and cost is reduced. Furthermore, resources are used more judiciously, and the business becomes more profitable.
The method of continuous improvement applied in kaizen helps businesses to achieve great successes. No business grows overnight. It requires a lot of patience and hard work. This also includes recognizing areas of improvements and making necessary changes.
Difficult to implement in existing systems
Despite the many benefits of kaizen, there are some limitations business managers need to be aware of before deciding to implement it. This is because implementing kaizen is tantamount to altering current management systems. As soon as kaizen is implemented in an organisation, it is very difficult to return to old management systems. Hence, kaizen might be easier to implement in businesses without already established management systems.
However, it is a very difficult task to change the entire management system of a business. Therefore, it is important that businesses maintain a practice of open communication for kaizen to be efficient. Employees should be given the opportunity to air their views without fear. Although, this is not usually the case for many businesses. Employees usually fear that if they are open to management it would cost them their chances for promotion or other benefits.
Change is difficult
One of the greatest kaizen disadvantages is that people are always reluctant to change. Therefore, when businesses want to implement kaizen, they have to put up with a certain resistance. Employees might not be ready to accept a different system from what they have been used to. On the other hand, management might be reluctant to implement kaizen because they feel it is expensive.
Could cause frictions
In addition, when implementing kaizen, could be very difficult for some organisations to change their current approach to work. Hence, if a business is not prepared for change when implementing kaizen, it could lead to friction.
Another kaizen disadvantage is the method of training. The kaizen methodology requires training staff and management to understand and adopt the kaizen philosophy. This might require altering the usual process of work. Employees may need to take out time from work to undergo training. Also, new employees may need to undergo kaizen training in addition to their usual training. Thus, they may find it tedious and demanding. More so, the time allotted for training may not be sufficient for employees to grasp the entire concept of kaizen. As such, employees may not be willing to implement a concept they do not understand.
Enthusiasm could wane easily
Employees might be excited at first to implement changes. However, their excitement could wear away when the changes become difficult to adapt to. As such, they may resort to old practices and stick to ‘business as usual’. In addition, employees could be demoralized and unenthusiastic about work. Hence, the time and resources spent to implement kaizen are wasted and the purpose of implementing kaizen is defeated.
Few bad eggs could ruin the whole batch
Even if some departments stick to the changes that have the implemented, it could still affect overall business performance. It is true that kaizen will improve the departments that accept the changes. Nevertheless, the overall output will be compromised if other departments do not adopt the changes as well.
Generally, continuous improvement is a great way for a business to operate. Notwithstanding, training employees to adapt to continuous improvements is expensive and tasking. Also, when businesses implement continuous improvements, they might be at risk of changing parts of their processes that are actually functioning well.
Kaizen is a method of continuous improvement that helps to eliminate waste and defects in a business process. Despite the fact that it is beneficial to a business, it is also beneficial to employees and customers as well. However, it is important for business managers to understand kaizen advantages and disadvantages before choosing to implement it.
Many advantages of kaizen
Apart from eliminating waste in business processes, kaizen helps to improve efficiency. Kaizen creates standardized work processes, reduces cost and boosts productivity. In addition, an organisation’s leader often leads kaizen. It is not necessary that an employee should be in a management position to qualify as a team leader. Thus, implementing kaizen gives room for employees to take on leadership roles and show their leadership skills. Other kaizen advantages include improving teamwork and including employees in decision making.
Kaizen has limitations too
Nevertheless, kaizen has its limitations. One major kaizen disadvantage is that it distorts the entire management system. Kaizen could be difficult for businesses to go back to previous systems. Also, employees might be unwilling to change the system that they have been used to. Furthermore, training staff to adapt to new changes could be expensive and very demanding. If employees do not play their part in adopting these changes, the amount of time and resources spent will go to waste. In the end, the purpose of implementing kaizen is defeated.
Should an organisation implement kaizen or not? Although kaizen may be difficult to implement, it is not impossible. In addition, it may be easier to implement kaizen in some organisations than others. For instance, a new business can implement kaizen easier than those with already established management systems. It would also be beneficial to a new business if it implements kaizen methodology from inception. Nevertheless, when businesses have a good understanding of kaizen advantages and disadvantages, they can use them for their own benefit.
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