Planning for Lean

A different approach to Kaizen

Ryan E. Day

May 7, 2019

Most of us have heard of kaizen—continuous improvement of philosophy and methodology. In business, this involves all employees working to improve a company's processes to lean it out, to run with less waste. But most of us who are familiar with kaizen think of it as something you do.

Especially, we think of kaizen as something you apply to an existing operation or process, or in terms of mounting a “kaizen blitz.” We tend to think of it as is trying to fix something that’s already broken. But what if you applied kaizen principles before your organization was actually up and running?

“The ideal time to think about using kaizen, or continuous improvement, is really phase one, or the feasibility study of construction or building out an existing manufacturing facility,” explains Dan Chartier, managing director of Kaizen Institute North America. “It’s important to get involved as early as possible in the project. This helps in assessing the efficiencies of the plan before it gets designed and constructed.”

The whole idea is to look at the intended facility layout to determine if it will yield efficient processes once constructed as envisioned.

“Too often, we get brought into a project once the plant [is already operational] and the owner spent a lot of money, but they’re not getting the results they were hoping for from their plant,” says Chartier. “Then they bring us in to look for ways of improving efficiencies and reducing costs. If we can do that before construction begins, [we have a chance] at saving the owner a lot of money from the start.

Check out the full interview with Dan Chartier on the April 26, 2019, Quality Digest Live podcast.

About The Author

Ryan E. Day’s picture

Ryan E. Day

Ryan E. Day is Quality Digest’s senior editor for solution-based reporting, which brings together those seeking business improvement solutions and solution providers. Day has spent the last decade researching and interviewing top business leaders and continuous improvement experts at companies like Sakor, Ford, Merchandize Liquidators, Olympus, 3D Systems, Hexagon, Intertek, InfinityQS, Johnson Controls, FARO, and Eckel Industries. Most of his reporting is done with the help of his 20-lb tabby cat at his side.