Chapter 7. Make Rapid Improvements through Kaizens

With John Smith

When you're working in a highvolume, continuous process environment, like a paper mill, very small percentages of waste can add up to big dollars quickly. When staff at one mill saw that waste on one machine had increased steadily three months in a row, they had to make a change quickly or costs would continue to mount.

Knowing that even the best traditional DMAIC projects can take months to complete, the mill was looking for a different approach that could generate results more quickly. So they turned to the Kaizen (pronounced KYEzen) project model, where a team works full-time on solving a problem for a concentrated period of time (typically, a full week).

Mill management allocated seven employees to participate in the Kaizen to study and solve the waste problem. There was one limitation given to the team: no capital expenditure. During the week-long event, the team completed all of the DMAIC steps: defining the problem, brainstorming improvement ideas, doing root-cause analysis, identifying quick-hit actions, establishing new operating procedures that would prevent the root causes of waste, and setting up a database metric so they could monitor ongoing performance.

Actions that came out of that week saved the company $2.75 million annually in waste.

Many companies we work with have never heard of the Kaizen project model before. Others associate it with much smaller gains: "We tried a few Kaizens and saved $20,000. ...

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