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Kaizen cuts costs through small cuts

9 August 2017

Kaizen cuts costs through small cuts

The discipline of Kaizen is easily incorporated into a culture of continuous improvement and delivers great benefits, writes Peter Kelly, Eurocell Operations Director. 

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I have applied the principles of Kaizen in industries ranging from aerospace and automotive components to nail care products and home drinks dispensers. In the few months – less than a year now – we have formed a Kaizen team from three shop floor operatives that have achieved significant seven-figure savings.

We are now on a ‘lean manufacturing’ journey that will enter other areas of the business so that its principles cascade throughout the Eurocell group.

Kaizen itself is a Japanese concept of continuous improvement, the idea that substantial improvements are achieved through small changes that add up over time.

And, importantly, these changes are not imposed from above by management but come from the shop floor itself. This is one of the key elements of Kaizen: it involves everybody, not just the Kaizen team or the managers, so it is effective because the changes to working practice are ‘owned’ by the very people who must enact them. So, in each area that the team works there are ‘advocates’, staff working in that area that can promote best practice and put forward suggestions.

Time and time again, in every industry and every sector, you find that the best ideas come from the shop floor because they know what is going wrong.

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The principles of Kaizen are summed up as DMAIC. The processes are Defined, Measured and Analysed so they can then be Improved and Controlled. So, it is not just a case of rushing in and delivering an instant answer, as there are five distinct phases to work through. The team must collaborate with the operatives on the shop floor to understand the processes that lead to waste and seek their advice on the most practical ways to improve manufacturing.

The Kaizen system has adopted the idea of awarding belts in the same way as martial arts such as judo and karate and the three-man team are already well on their way, having won their green belt with their first presentation to chief executive Mark Kelly.

I have been involved in Kaizen for many years, starting when I worked for British Aerospace as the TQM (Total Quality Management) Manager and was sent to Japan to study lean manufacturing techniques at Kawasaki.

I then applied what I had learned to various companies in the automotive industry – Rearsby Automotive in Leicester, Lawrence Automotive in Nottingham – before moving into other sectors. I have applied the same principles to a company producing nail care, a chain of builders’ merchants and, in every case, the same rules apply.

You can cut costs, improve quality and deliver reliably if you are prepared to commit to learning and applying these principles. And that is what we are doing, and improving the bottom line in the process.

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