Kaizen represents the continuous and integral effort of the members of an organization because every day some kind of improvement is made in the processes.
It is unknown to no one that these changes in attitudes have been transmitted from a country that if we went back a few years and established conclusions about the competitive level that their products or services offered to the customer, the first thing that would be mentioned is low quality, disposable, obsolete. and outdated. However, there are still people involved in the business who wonder what was the magic formula that transformed a limited country in many aspects, to be the pivot that sets the standard to be followed by all companies considered first level, and that now presents us with an endless number of characteristics in its products that can be included in quality, efficiency, utility, and innovation.
The answer sought in companies stuck in the past can be summed up in one word: attitude. Attitude to recognize and accept that there are imperfections in all areas that make up a company; attitude to recognize responsibilities on them; attitude to face the challenge of starting from scratch in almost all aspects; attitude to make mistakes and know that they do not have to be repeated to achieve a competitive level.
There will always be company administrators who turn this reality around, hiding behind the stubbornness that Japanese culture is very different from that of their own countries, and they prefer to preserve their competition at the national, regional, and even local levels. , which, although it gives them economic returns, gives them very little satisfaction both as a company and as people themselves. This is the true starting point, starting from nothing, having reached a semi-finish line to start the race at the second, third, or whatever to feel the pleasure of really competing, not just participating.
Perhaps the philosophy or ideology that Japan has as a country recently baptized it with a single word that encompasses its way of living and looking toward the future: Kaizen.
“The message of kaizen strategy is that not a day should go by without some kind of improvement being made somewhere in the company…”
However, I believe that the translation of this word is contained in many currents, both philosophical and religious, that any country involved in the kaizen “revolution” has managed in their own cultures. Every religious current has proclaimed in one way or another the need to be better as people day by day and avoid making the same mistakes. So the excuse used in many places is not valid.
Perhaps the mistake that is made when trying to understand the kaizen concept is that those in charge of involving their companies in said ideology think that it will solve all their problems when they do not even know what they are doing wrong, or what is being Needs improvement.
“The starting point for improvement is recognizing the need. This comes from recognizing the problem. If no problem is recognized, the need for improvement is also not recognized…”
Managers must fully understand and accept that no matter how much they and their workers think that their work is at the highest point of excellence, there will always be a new proposal, a new method, a new process, a new machine, a different one. way of doing things that can make this excellence be seen as imperfect.
How many cases have not been known of companies in which their administrators are dedicated to maintaining and not developing their areas, or they simply think that by buying the latest fashion in terms of machinery or having the best worker in their field, their competitive level will continue to be valid without the slightest effort and perseverance on the part of themselves and their subordinates? The results are visible, not only in Queretaro, nor in Mexico, but in countries where their “culture” supposedly does not allow them a license for this attitude, businesses that were pivotal at the time, have now been bought or disappeared. by the competition that was previously at the expense of their moves.
The author of the supporting text mentions that the competitiveness race is like an endless ladder, in which going up one step means temporary and partial improvement, going up to the second implies improvement of the improvements made previously, and so on, noting that the No one knows the end of the said ladder since it is infinite, the term of the total improvement is subjective since we do not have the possibility of predicting how far we are going to go.
“Kaizen strategists believe that, by nature, standards are provisional, perishable in steps, with one standard leading to another as improvement efforts are made…” .
However, if you want to continue in the career, there is only one element that must be essential to continue with these improvements: the continuous and integral effort of all the members that make up a company, call them managers, supervisors, engineers, workers, mayors, and customers. and suppliers, which sooner or later will give you your entry ticket to the competition: quality.
To this continuous effort (kaizen) innovation can also be added, call it technology and/or equipment. Investing a large amount of money in it does not guarantee quality, it goes beyond these aspects.
“Quality is associated not only with products and services but with the way people work, the way machines are operated and the way systems and procedures are dealt with…”
These aspects should be considered by every person who is involved in the administration of a company, since it is mistakenly thought that having available financial resources, implementing modern quality control systems, or because it is thought that their own Since they control said quality in all aspects, they “throw themselves into the hammock” thinking that the standards will be maintained and even more so, they will develop on their own.
“Total quality control goes through perpetual changes and improvements, and is never completely the same from one day to the next. The term quality control has been used to mean both quality control and tools for general improvement in management performance…”
Continuous improvement is supported, as mentioned, by everyone’s effort to achieve it. Therefore, it is very important to achieve the objective that the different points of view of each one of the people be known by those in charge of translating and carrying out the improvements. This process is known as the Suggestion System. Its importance within the kaizen concept is invaluable.
Normally, as graduates of a school, we think that having spent nine semesters glued to books, conferences, and other engineers who are working, gives us the right or obligation to know everything that involves the resolution of problems in the company in which we are hired and we are located “above” the people who are in our charge. We establish, as the author mentions, a barrier in which there is no room for the opinion of people who do not have a piece of paper hanging on the wall that endorses their knowledge, or who have a ticket stating that they have accredited matters related to the processes production, manufacturing systems, mathematics or research methodology.
“Unless a conscious and permanent effort is made to neutralize status differences in the company, class antagonism will poison the atmosphere and derail the most rational plans…”
Therefore, if a constant review of a company’s quality standards is intended, EVERYONE’s opinion is essential to achieve it. But it is not alone in it; the thread that moves the world of competitiveness is undoubtedly the same competition, “in Japan they are even competing not only in quality, price or service, but now they are doing it in the introduction of better and faster kaizen programs…”.
In one of the visits made in the course, we were told about the marks imposed by the company’s workers in terms of model change times; They told us that the people in charge of it are in constant competition against themselves to reduce said times, that is, their primary goal is to feel competitive, to feel useful in their work.
“Today’s workers do not seem to be satisfied with repetitive conventional jobs despite the monetary compensation they receive. They want their work to include areas such as thinking and deciding for themselves how the work should be done…”
Another important aspect to consider so that the implementation of kaizen obtains the expected results, is the change of mentality of the company’s administrators about the points to attack when a problem arises. Currently, the immediate economic results are the tactic of the strategies to be followed by these people in their companies. Perhaps for this reason, the fear of lower-level personnel is due to presenting suggestions or opinions that, due to a lack of knowledge or experience, they cannot evaluate in monetary returns.
“Kaizen generates process-oriented thinking, since processes must be improved before improved results are obtained…”
If management believes that kaizen is going to have an immediate impact on its economic evaluations, it doesn’t have the slightest reason to bother trying to apply it to your company. The results will take a certain period and the place where its implementation will first be noticed is in the productive areas. When this is achieved, it will be time to take out the calculators and distribute the profits that, if the kaizen ideology continues to develop in the organization, will begin constant and effective growth.
How the administration is going to carry out the evaluations of achievements or improvements is another point to consider in the implementation of Kaizen. It was previously mentioned that almost everyone demands results in numbers and they forget about the efforts; to translate kaizen into achievements in the last stage: the number of finished products-number of products sold. And they forget that there are endless aspects that, although they are not felt directly by them (almost always 100% by the workers), are hindering a better performance of the company.
“Productivity is a measure, not a reality. It is just a description of the current state of affairs and the past efforts of people, the efforts made to improve both productivity and quality are the reality…”
If there is a job performance evaluation that indicates an integral effort of all the personnel that collaborates in the company, it is the best indicator of the proper functioning of the kaizen and its prompt results, now reflected in numbers and graphs.
One of the points that have made Japan what it is in the business field is how it intertwines innovation and kaizen. Just as they are interested in creating new machinery and equipment to increase the efficiency of their processes, they are also concerned with developing the capacity and reliability of the performance of their operators.
Many companies in Mexico and other parts of the world, which did not have large financial resources to modernize their facilities and equipment, opted for kaizen and its tools (kanban, poka-yoke, SMED, etc. ) to achieve competitiveness. This leads us to the opinion that money does not always produce more money.
“Kaizen is people oriented, while innovation is technology and money oriented…”
However, kaizen also involves the organization’s facilities. Kaizen requires staff to pay full attention to learning and improving their use. If people share this ideology, they will try to take advantage of the material aspects that they have to handle in their position. There will always be something to improve a super machine, and only the application of all the ingenuity of the worker will be able to fully exploit the investment made by the administration.
With the point mentioned above, we can underline the importance that groups and the individuals that compose them are invited to participate in kaizen. It is not enough to motivate people to participate in quality circles, mixed commissions, etc., but it is necessary to provoke in them the need to share a kind of “circle of responsibility”.
Responsibility for achieving 200% quality and effectiveness in each movement you make in your position, in each operation, in each piece, and in each batch. That each one of the components of this group knows that the quality involved in their position is more important than that of the others, but they also understand that the quality of the company is more important than that of their performance.
The most important task of the administration when the kaizen ideology is desired in the company, is to know how to involve all of it in this movement. You must obtain the means to correct possible failures (of which there will be many) in its development, such as lack of integration of the areas, lack of responsibility of the people in the role that they have to exercise, poor communication, etc.
The people who assisted us in the industrial visits always highlighted the difficulty for people to accept the change in attitude at work; but they also pointed out that once the acceptance and elimination of people’s fear for the new are achieved, everything becomes easier and surprising results are achieved. In ARELA, for example, there was a case in which a production line had achieved the lowest productivity of the entire company in a period, but such was the impact of this event on the group that formed said line, that for the following period reached one of the most outstanding marks in its history. With this, we can realize that the attitude of the people only needs a motivating factor to achieve improvements,
The kaizen seeks to find the corner of improvement that each worker has saved, regardless of nationality or culture.
“Individual-oriented kaizen is often seen as supporting morale and management does not always look for immediate financial results in every suggestion…”
This “measles” for the overcoming and improvement of workers is the basis for kaizen to achieve its establishment and final operation in any company. If this is not achieved the first time, the administration has to do it again with other motivational and comprehensive instruments, so that no one is left out of this movement. Although continuous improvement is attempted through innovation or other means, the results that are expected to be obtained in the future will be difficult to achieve without the support of all members of the organization.
“No matter what management can do, physical productivity will not improve unless the people who work for the company are willing to work and feel that they are doing important work…”
- Masaaki Imai. Kaizen: The Key to Japan’s Competitive Advantage, Continental Publishing Company