Read about Sakichi Toyoda and Masaaki Imai and
discover their involment in Kaizen history
Free resources on Kaizen
Learn how to use Kaizen
Some things to know to apply Kaizen
Phases of Kaizen implementation
The story of the Kaizen miracle started in the 1930s.
Sakichi Toyoda, founder of Toyota, which manufactured automatic looms at the time, liked to tell his co-workers: “Open the window; it is a big world out there”.
In 1950 Toyota implemented quality circles leading to the development of Toyota’s unique “Toyota Production System”. Toyota System is a system of continuous improvement in quality, technology, processes, company culture, productivity, safety and leadership.
These continual small improvements (Kaizen) add up to major benefits. They result, for example, in: faster delivery, lower costs, and greater customer satisfaction.
(From Toyota Production System Terminology on their Georgetown plant website - Nov 2003: "Kaizen, or continuous improvement, is the hallmark of the Toyota Production System. The primary objectives are to identify and eliminate "Muda," or waste in all areas, including the production process. "Kaizen" also strives to ensure quality and safety. Its key elements emphasize making a task simpler and easier to perform, re-engineering processes to accommodate the physical demands on team members, increasing the speed and efficiency of the work process, maintaining a safe work environment, and constantly improving the product quality”)
In 1986 Masaaki Imai introduced to the Western world the Japanese term Kaizen and made it famous through his book, Kaizen: The Key to Japan's Competitive Success. Translated in fourteen languages, Kaizen became a fad the world over.
In 1997 Imai introduced an evolved form of Kaizen in his book Gemba Kaizen: A Commonsense, Low-Cost Approach to Management, to reassert the importance of the shop floor in bringing about continual improvement in an organization. In essence, that translates into something of a corporate 'back to basics' philosophy. Gemba is where the product is actually manufactured, which could mean the assembly line in a manufacturing plant or the place where employees interact with customers in the service sector. It is "the place where the real work is done", as Imai likes to put it.