First of all, are you curious what in the world  a “Kaizen” is? Don’t ask for it at your local bakery, it’s not a roll or pastry.

Kaizen is a Lean Management and Manufacturing term, derived from the Toyota Production System that literally means to break apart, or dissect (Kai), and to put back together in peace and harmony (Zen). In the lean manufacturing world, like at Cadet, it is a term for an event or activity that rapidly breaks apart a process, identifies and eliminates waste, maximizes value, and makes changes by implementing improvements to streamline processes.

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We define “value” as any activity that transforms raw materials and/or information into a product the customer wants and is willing to pay for. We define “waste” as activities that consume resources, but don’t directly contribute to the product. By clearly defining “value” for a specific product or service from the customer’s perspective, all the non-value activities – or waste – can be targeted for removal, step by step.

At Cadet, we start the Kaizen process by defining the problem or process to address. We then determine the scope and goals for the event or activity. Team members are selected for each particular Kaizen and consists of Cadet Employees, usually those closest to the process or product. A Kaizen event can last from a few hours, to a few days, depending on the scope of the event or activity.

Once the team is set, they begin by measuring the current state of the process or problem by going to the place where it all happens. They use several lean tools to record the data, break apart the process into value added vs. non-value added steps or activities. They then brainstorm ways to eliminate the waste, and improve the remaining process steps for a more efficient, and effective process. Once the changes have been tested and implemented, the new process is recorded, trained, and monitored for sustainability.

It’s then time to celebrate. Most of our Kaizen events are followed by a plant-wide report-out by the Kaizen team. This instills a sense of ownership to the new process, encourages future creative and engaging activities, and gives us all a chance to celebrate the team’s accomplishments. Kaizen truly is a culture of change and continuous improvement.