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Lean Principles

Lean Principles

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Quick Overview

Model to measure and evaluatue business processes in a permanent manner to meet the requirements of the customer: The model describes five phases: Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve, Control

Related models: DMAICLEANDeming CircleDecision MakingKnowledge DefinitionKnowledge Value ChainKnowledge ConversionLearn and Remember;


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DMAIC (Lean Kaizen)



Kaizen in Japanese means “change for the better” or “change”. It is a body of thought that came about in Japan after World War II. Also, the work of the Americans Frederick Winslow Taylor and Walter Shewhart has made a serious contribution.

Related models: DMAICLEANDeming CircleDecision MakingKnowledge DefinitionKnowledge Value ChainKnowledge ConversionLearn and Remember;

The body of thought contains the principle that really good change cannot be unless all staff members are involved, from managers to the lavatory attendant. Each employee must come up with ideas on a regular basis. This means not once every month or every six months, but in fact all the time. Japanese companies such as Toyota and Canon are realising 60 to 70 improvement proposals per staff member per year. These proposals are registered, discussed and alternatively they are introduced. In most cases small changes are involved. Kaizen is based on implementing minor changes on a regular basis.

Kaizen is a daily activity with an aim that is beyond improvement. At the same time it is a process that, provided it is carried out correctly, makes the workplace more human. It eliminates unpleasant work (mentally and physically) and teaches people how to recognise and eliminate wasting during a process.

Kaizen is based on lean techniques such as the PDCA cycle or the Deming circle. This DMAIC method is meant to eliminate wasting in daily activities.


The model

The model describes five process steps which are used to improve matters. Repeat this cycle several times to create a continuously improving situation:

      Define: define scope and describe targets including related time.

      Measure: measure the current situation against certain process aspects. You may think of completion time, delivery time, number of process steps, material used, amount of waste and loss as well as the number of defects in the testing phase.

      Analyse: analyse the current situation for instance by determining the added value of a process step, describing bottlenecks and mapping the efficiency of each step.

      Improve: improve the process by describing a ‘to be’ situation.

      Verify: verify the new working method and compare the measuring data to the previous situation.

Kaizen focuses on eliminating the 3 Ms.

      Muda: in Japanese means waste and is considered wastage. Kaizen focuses on eliminating muda.

      Mura: muta indicates irregularity. Somewhere the process is stagnating preventing a continuous flow of product and service delivery. Kaizen targets continuous movement.

      Muri: means unnecessary/unfriendly. Toilsome, boring or even dangerous activities are not accepted by staff. Things can be different. Kaizen eliminates man-unfriendly treatments and activities (the same applies to machines) and focuses on appreciating man.


How to use it

Initially Kaizen was used at production and assembly companies. Today the Kaizen body of thought is emerging in many fields. The core is this: all participate to ensure better results. Kaizen sessions and workshops are held on a regular basis and they are attended by shop floor workers and managers. In this way managers’ holistic ideas are counterbalanced by staff’s practical views. Listening attentively to one another, understanding each other thus creating support usually leads to sustainable changes.

Stick to small steps. The good thing about a high cycle change in small steps is that a proposed change can be introduced promptly, that the results of ideas will soon present themselves in the working environment and that each has the opportunity to join in. Also, financial and resource investments in these changes are minimal.

Make the desired changes visual and public. For instance, hang signs on the wall on which ideas can be collected, on which the selected changes are visible and results are communicated.

Good luck eliminating!

Related models: 


-   LEAN

-   Deming Circle

-   Decision Making

-   Knowledge Definition

-   Knowledge Value Chain

-   Knowledge Conversion

-   Learn and Remember;




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