I’ve finish reading “Gemba Kaizen: A Commonsense, Low-Cost Approach to Management” by Masaaki IMAI.
In Japanese, Gemba means “place of work” and kaizen means “continuous improvement”. The book describes how a culture of continuous improvement in the place of work (mostly but not exclusively factories) is at the heart of the Japanese miracle since the ‘70s.
While I was reading this book, I kept thinking about this scene from “The Last Samuraï” where Tom Cruise, a Westerner taken prisoner by a Japanese warriors’ community, is amazed to see how everyone there, from children to elders, spends their entire day striving to perfect themselves.
Here are some of the key concepts presented in the book:
- Quality improvements and cost reductions are compatible and should, in fact, go hand-in-hand.
- Where no standard exists, improvement cannot happen.
- The 5S (Sort, Straighten, Scrub, Systematize and Standardize) is a discipline that requires clearing out things which are not needed.
- Muda refers to anything that is wasteful and doesn't add value.
- Establishing standards, applying the 5S and eliminating the Muda are the three pillars of Gemba Kaizen.
- Takt time is the maximum time allowed to produce a product in order to meet demand.
- Cycle time is the actual time it takes to produce a product. In a functional organization, it is always inferior or equal to the takt time.
- For a process to be optimally efficient, every sub processes should be slowed down to match as closely as possible the takt time.
- There should never be a day without any improvement.
- Continuity is a key to lasting success
This is just a sample of the powerful (and sometimes unsettling) concepts offered by the author to the open-minded reader. I intend to explore some of them into more details in the coming weeks.
The material is a bit “dry” at times but I nevertheless really enjoyed reading it, not in small part because I could see the lineage between these ideas and some of the concepts behind the Agile software development methodologies. I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone interested in Quality, Productivity and Process Improvement.