Lean Manufacturing and Kaizen

Lean manufacturing is a term and concept that grew from the heralded Toyota Production System of the 1970s. Toyota was able to up-end the North American car market by becoming efficient at building high-quality cars (Roos, et al., 1991). Lean manufacturing encompasses many practices for identifying and removing waste from the manufacturing process. These concepts are beneficial to startups, small businesses, and large manufacturers.

A kaizen event is a 2 to 5 day effort focused on one business process or workstation. The kaizen team should be made up primarily of the team members who conduct the process under scrutiny. You may start with 5S: Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize, Sustain. Safety is job one! After the workstation is in order, document the process. Make note of every step. Measure the process. The goal is to remove waste, not to speed-up the value added steps.

Look for repetitive tasks that don’t add value. Can they be automated? An example of waste is duplicated data entry. Strive to enter data only once into your master database or lab management system. Look for ways to export/import to downstream workstations as needed. Traceability is not just a requirement the FDA places on medical device manufacturers, it is valuable on it’s own as a tool to reduce errors and improve quality.

Make a change and re-measure. Repeat as necessary. Celebrate your team and their improvements at the end of the kaizen event.

Interested in learning more about how to hold a kaizen event? Contact us for more information. Have you held a kaizen-like event? Tell me about in the comments!


Roos, Daniel, Ph.D.; Womack, James P., Ph.D.; Jones, Daniel T.: The Machine That Changed the World : The Story of Lean Production, Harper Perennial (November 1991), ISBN 0060974176, ISBN 978-0060974176