Followers of Kaizen often refer to the “Five S,” a systematic approach to create efficiencies. Each “s” stands for a Japanese word, translated here:

  • Seiri – sort out
  • Seiton – organize
  • Seiso – shine the workplace, or keep it clean
  • Seiketsu – standardize
  • Shitsuke – self-discipline

You may also hear people talk about Kaizen events: Employees gather together, map a process, find ways to improve the process and ensure buy-in from everyone involved.

Where Can I Learn More?

Try the following for more information on Kaizen:

kaizen-training.com – Kaizen Training is a for-hire consultancy. However, the website offers lots of free information, including articles, a blog, tools and weekly tips.

“Kaizen: The Key to Japan’s Competitive Success” – This book by Masaaki Imai discusses 16 management practices and contains 15 corporate case studies.

theleanlibrary.com – A compilation of resources, this website includes “Quick Start Guides.” These guides feature articles organized by how detailed they are – from “I only want the basics” to “I need to get down to the nuts and bolts” of each quality process.

An Introduction to Lean Manufacturing

The basic principles behind lean manufacturing can be traced back 100 years to Henry Ford: He combined interchangeable parts with standard work and moving conveyance to create what he called “flow production.” After World War II, Toyota carefully considered flow production and devised a system to provide continuity in process flow as well as a variety of product offerings. The seminal thought processes behind modern-day lean manufacturing were described in the 1990 book “The Machine That Changed the World” by James P. Womack, Daniel Roos and Daniel T. Jones. Aside from Toyota, other large companies that rely on lean manufacturing include Nike and Boeing.

What Is Lean?

Lean manufacturing, also simply called lean, is a production practice that focuses on maximizing customer value while minimizing wastes. The underlying theme of lean is to preserve value with less work.

The lean manufacturing practice follows five principles:

  1. Identify customers and specify value
  2. Map the value stream
  3. Create flow by eliminating waste
  4. Understand what the customer demands, then respond
  5. Pursue perfection

Where Can I Learn More?

Here are two online tools that provide information about the lean process:
lean.org – The Lean Enterprise Institute Inc., founded by James P. Womack in 1997, is a nonprofit education, publishing, research and conference organization. The website includes a Knowledge Center with resources divided by market sector (such as manufacturing) and job functions.
leanmanufacturingtools.org – This website provides brief summaries of various lean tools and techniques.