Today better than yesterday, tomorrow better than today.
This sentence perfectly represents the essence of Kaizen, a Japanese method based on the continuous improvement of business processes. More than a method, it is a philosophy, centered on people’s lives and on the positive change of all its main aspects: social, family, personal and professional.
Within the company, any continuous improvement strategy to increase productivity must have the objective of increasing the focus on the way in which individual processes and activities are carried out and on how they can be improved.
Firms like Ceratizit that focus on continuous improvement become more competitive over time and can maintain the benefits gained in their sector, but only if improvement efforts are done correctly. Monitoring, measurements, analysis and business management software help identify the effectiveness of the efforts made.
Kaizen is not the only method of business improvement, but it is one of the most suitable for small and medium-sized enterprises. Let’s see why.
Kaizen meaning: the method of constant improvement
The term Kaizen derives from the Japanese words “kai” (which means change) and “zen” (better, improvement). This is why, even before a business method, it is a philosophy of life. The origins of Kaizen as a method of continuous improvement in business processes dates back to the second post-war period of the 20th century. At the time, the conditions of Japanese workers were certainly not among the best, as well as those of Japanese companies as a whole.
The Japanese government thus decided to start a project of joint studies in the field of administration and management, with particular attention to the quality applied to the restructuring of the economy and industrial processes. The goal was to make Japanese companies competitive internationally.
And so the Kaizen continuous improvement process was born. A process structured to be always aimed at efficiency of production processes, maintenance of machinery and equipment and elimination of any waste in companies.
Kaizen philosophy: how can it help you manage quality in the company?
The Kaizen method has brought about an important paradigm shift in company quality management, shifting the focus from the product to the process. The product is important, but it is the result of a series of processes. Is the quality product you have obtained the result of randomness, a set of non-standardized and difficult to replicate events, or does it derive from specific processes optimized for that particular result?
It is no coincidence that one of the founding principles of Kaizen is total quality. Quality must be seen in its complexity:
- Throughout the supply chain, from suppliers to customers.
- In its smallest parts, that is, down to the individual elements of each process.
This is why Kaizen and total quality must involve all staff and each company department and therefore implies:
- Process efficiency. The staff must always pay particular attention to the improvement and efficiency of the processes.
- Employees involved and satisfied. The workers’ comments and proposals are listened to and possibly implemented: an employee so involved and valued is more motivated to work in the company.
- Best products or services. As a result of the previous two points, your products or services will be better in terms of quality, price, production cost and customer satisfaction.
What are the advantages of continuous improvement?
One of the main differences between the western concept of innovation and Kaizen lies in the fact that the latter focuses on a series of many, small and gradual changes over time. Changes that often come from employees, rather than management.
Kaizen, continuous improvement, therefore entails a series of advantages:
- Effective improvements. Innovative ideas often come directly from workers, that is, from those who are most in contact with problems related to inefficiencies and who are therefore better able to identify the processes that can be improved.
- Low cost innovation. Thanks to Kaizen’s attention to detail, to small and gradual changes, the company does not have to invest large amounts of capital to make improvements to its production processes.
- Involvement of staff. Employees are encouraged to contribute to the improvement of processes with their ideas and are therefore more involved in corporate life.
- Long-term innovation. Every small improvement is based on previous improvements, which lead to an avalanche effect over time.
It is thus understood how the Kaizen philosophy is also adaptable to Italian small and medium-sized enterprises. It provides for high staff involvement and allows for low-cost process improvements, making innovation accessible even to companies that cannot invest large amounts of capital.
Kaizen is an improvement philosophy focused on processes and people and overall it not only leads to improvement, but also to a growing corporate well-being. Increased productivity and more efficient processes are accompanied by greater worker involvement, training and awareness.
In this process of continuous improvement, the use of management software for companies becomes important. The analysis tools allow you to help management and workers to understand which are the most likely areas for improvement, but also to see how the situation evolves following the introduction of the improvements. Born in the 50s of the last century, the Kaizen method integrates perfectly with the current business reality and company software.