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A kaizen event is a process that uses the Japanese principles of kaizen in a fast-tracked way to improve something in an area of business. Also referred to as a kaizen blitz or kaizen burst, it is considered a one-time event rather than a long-term process, which is in direct contrast to how the principles of kaizen are usually implemented. It is often seen in businesses, mostly Japanese businesses, which need to reach a certain goal in a limited time or are having issues in a specific area of production.
The principle of kaizen loosely translates to improvement or change. Kaizen’s main tenet is that of making daily changes to improve a business or manufacturing company on a continuing basis. Although it is used primarily in aspects of manufacturing and similar businesses, it also is applied in other arenas, such as healthcare, government, and banking. Kaizen aims to improve production, reduce waste, inspire cooperation between all levels of employees, and make the work place more humane. It is applied to all levels of employees, from the janitorial staff to the president of the company.
There are a variety of reasons a kaizen event would be called upon. It is often used when a division or group of people is beginning to work together in a specific area, or it can be used when an established area or group is not meeting production goals. A specific process is followed, typically over a period of three to ten days, which will include training, problem identification, brainstorming, presentation of results, and celebrating the success of the event. Usually, a follow-plan is included to bring the practical aspects of the event into the daily work routine.
Planning a kaizen event can take several months leading up to the actual event. Although a kaizen event can last up to ten days, they more often last three to five. The follow-up period usually lasts around 30 days, and meetings are held every week or every few days to assess if goals are being reached, what improvements are needed, and other topics.
Although Japanese businesses are the primary initiators of a kaizen event, other countries have also adopted the principles. One of the main difficulties in convincing companies that are not familiar with the principles of kaizen to have a kaizen is the down time. Taking a week or more to have an event can affect the business process significantly. Those who endorse kaizen events say that the time lost is made up for in improved production time and fewer daily problems to fix.