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Kaizen Blitz
Practical Application

Lean Manufacturing Tools and Techniques

Kaizen Blitz: Explained and Illustrated 


Kaizen Blitz involves temporarily forming proactive teams, with the aim of rapidly examining a work area or process, analyzing problems and swiftly coming up with solutions for improvement. Finally this is followed by implementation.

Start – Define the Task

To start, the scope of the problem and the area to be reviewed need to be predefined. The team needs to be selected and briefed with instructions. Team selection may involve team members working in that area, those who are new to that area or it may be a multifunctional team. Then a reasonably rapid time scale needs to be set, to ensure the group keeps up momentum. Activities may be facilitated by a trained leader, or the teams may all be trained and empowered to proceed themselves.

Review the Current State

The next stage is for the team to examine the area in its current state.

  • What are the processes?
  • What are the material and information inputs and outputs?
  • Where are equipment, employees and materials positioned?
  • Are they accessible when required?
  • Is the correct information available when needed?
  • What is the housekeeping like and are all the required items kept in an orderly manner?

Reviewing the current state of affairs objectively often raises many queries, issues and opportunities for improvement. Ideas should be captured somehow – on a flip chart, post it notes, in a log book or laptop; just get them down! Importantly, any review must take place where the actual work happens. Before making any improvements, take some images so you can compare ‘before and after’ when the exercise is finished.

Identify Improvements

The key objective here is to identify potential improvements. A detailed examination of the current state should have helped identify a whole host of potential improvements. All employees involved in the Kaizen Blitz should consider how things can be made better. Start by answering all the questions raised in the current state review.

  • In each case what would improvement look like?
  • What would work better for the employees?
  • How could defects and waste be reduced?
  • How can materials and information be accessed more quickly?
  • Could anything be rearranged to make movement easier or quicker? 

Use the Lean Manufacturing tools to think creatively, be innovative and to solve problems and make enhancements. Again, capture all these good ideas by writing them down, preferably so they are visible to the group. Kaizen Blitz is all about rapidly identifying improvements in the workplace by those who actually work there. The group should get into the habit, coming up with ideas and making decisions quickly.

Develop a Plan for Improvements

Depending on the number and range of improvement ideas, you may wish to group them. 3 categories will do. The first group could be classified as ‘quick and easy’ Many of the 5S improvements about housekeeping and orderliness will probably be in here. The next range of enhancements could be classed as intermediate and will require more effort, perhaps needing authorization or limited spend. Finally more difficult solutions should be grouped. These may require external outsourced assistance, major movement of equipment or layout, or alternatively root cause analysis and design changes.

Present your Findings

Depending on the structure and size of your organization, you may need to present your findings to senior managers. They should be prepared to back any Lean Manufacture initiative and should be broadly appreciative. Plan the presentation, making clear the nature of any improvement activities, the benefits they will deliver (including cost savings), any expenditure required and an estimate on any downtime. For the quick and easy solutions ideally you should be empowered to just get on and implement the improvements. In fact these may help make the case for the more involved suggestions.

Implement the Improvements

Next, get on and do it! Implement your ideas. Use the team involved in suggesting ideas to actually make the changes they proposed. Easy stuff first – cleaning, sorting out, arranging, tidying etc. Again the 5S’s provide an invaluable range of ideas and practical tips to help guide the team. Task people with specific activities so everybody makes a valuable contribution. Keep the pace up and implement your ideas quickly. Some of your changes will be physical, to do with the working environment. Related to these, other solutions will be based around processes and procedures. New and improved ways of doing things that may be quicker, better, cheaper etc.

Capture the Enhancements

The nest stage is to capture improvements in new or updated standards (see the PDCA ‘act’ stage). Step-by-step processes should be recorded. Use images as well as text. Pictures can quickly document what is expected, reducing the possibility of quality defects. They also enable potential problems to be highlighted, as well as facilitate rapid training.

Take photo images of the new improved work environment – the new state. The group should compare and reflect on the ‘before and after’ state photos. Encourage discussion among employees. What are the key differences? Are they what was envisaged when the improvements where initially considered? From a work, productivity, quality and pace perspective, what is expected when production resumes?

Benefit by Working in the New Way

Time to get back to work! Try it all out and get production going again. Employees should get back to their workstations and start doing what they do best – delivering. The likelihood is things will need tweaking and modifying. Make whatever minor changes you need to create your intended outcome.

Empower employees to undertake alterations. Constantly review, assess and make improvements accordingly. Get all employees in the habit of tweaking and continuously improving. Fix what doesn’t work. As well as the small modifications, list any more detailed follow-up items. These may be tackled at future reviews, during scheduled maintenance or in the next Kaizen Blitz.

Kaizen Blitz: Workplace-based industrial example 

Gold mining with kaizen blitz from Marino Associates, LLC

Next... Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA) – The Deming Cycle

Back to Lean Manufacturing Essentials 

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