Gemba Kaizen

Kaizen Circles

Those who know the worksite best are the workers in the front line.
These employees must be given the opportunity to make suggestions - even little ones. Without their cooperation, we cannot make effective, long lasting kaizen. Employee engagement is key.

Kaizen circles, not only benefits the company but also the employees. Making their workplace better and safer is very rewarding. With a sense of pride that comes with contributing to the success of their company, employees can feel part of the company and gain a sense of ownership. The power of this cannot be underestimated. Study after study has demonstrated that money is not an employee`s driving force. People inherently want to contribute to something. If an owner or manager can harness this force in their employees, transformation will occur.

Establishing a Gemba Kaizen Circle

Typically held monthly, these small group meetings take about 30 minutes. They include five or six participants; including one manager/supervisor. They can be made up of staff within a department, a section or a division - It depends on what makes sense to your organization. They can be held at lunch hour or after hours. Staff are paid for their involvement in these meetings.

The purpose of these meetings is to discuss improvements to the current working situation/environment. If there are problems, even little ones - possible solutions are suggested. If there are no `problems`, improvement or cost reduction suggestions are made. In Japan, especially at The Toyota Motor Corporation and its suppliers, it is believed that there is always room for improvement. Always.

If there is a good suggestion, managers can take action to implement them. If there is a big problem and a suggestion to resolve it, the manager typically takes the suggestion to higher level management first before taking action.

There are also twice yearly larger gatherings to present cases of kaizen and acknowledge staff who have made effective suggestions. This is also very important for education, worker morale and overall employee engagement.

Recommended Reading:

Total Quality Control for Management by Masao Nemoto

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Return from Gemba Kaizen to Lean Manufacturing Principles

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