Page 2: Continuous improvement, or Kaizen
The Japanese term 'Kaizen' means continuous improvement. It comes from the words 'kai' continuous and 'zen' good or for the better. We
use the term 'Kaizen event' for any action that is an improvement to an existing process.
'Kaizen' means continuous improvement.
Kaizen events usually involve bringing together operators, managers and the owners of a particular event to discuss possible improvements. A flowchart illustrates the process and people discuss how they can improve the flow of work. Lots of small steps can rapidly become a giant leap forward in the creation of new ideas. The great thing about the Kaizen process is that people who really understand manufacturing at a nuts-and-bolts level can get involved in introducing improvements. Someone who assembles part of the truck suspension will have a reasonably good idea about how the processes they work on could be improved. Leyland therefore encourages everyone to be involved in decision making.
How Kaizen works
A good example of how Kaizen is implemented at Leyland relates to the introduction of a robotic paint spray booth for the truck chassis. This was a huge leap forward Leyland was the first assembly plant in the world to use robots on a moving conveyor to paint its chassis. It planned to implement this over the summer shutdown of the plant this is where Kaizen came in. One of the first steps was to look at the successful introduction of a production line the previous year. The purpose of this was to identify all the lessons that could be learned from the earlier project and to apply them to the new chassis spray booth. Everyone was able to put forward their views and all appropriate ideas for improvement were considered.
Why use Kaizen?
There are a number of major reasons why Leyland Trucks practises continuous improvement:
- to meet the production and sales growth plans
- to meet customer demands for more reliable trucks
- to stay ahead of the competition. For example, there is always a risk that rival manufacturers, e.g. in China and other European countries, might merge (this happens when two companies join together). This could lead to a threat from these bigger competitors
- to offset rising labour costs. Wage costs rise every year. Leyland is not able to raise prices because of competition, so any increase in wages has to be compensated for by more efficient production
- to protect jobs in the UK. If operations at Leyland Trucks were considered inefficient, there would be a danger that senior managers at global headquarters might want to move production to a location with lower wages.