Kaizen in logistics and transport. How to get started? Part 3
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Internal logistics, storage, but also transport. The principles of the Kaizen philosophy originating from Japan can be applied in practically every field. Many management systems in the Western world are based on Kaizen. Today we will try to answer the question: how to get started?
Kaizen helps to streamline existing technology as a result of employee involvement and practical observations. The changes rarely represent a breakthrough – they are usually innovations. They are initiated by individual people but implemented jointly by a team. It is essential that everything is done in “small steps” so that it does not hinder the functioning of the structure as a whole.
There are plenty of areas where Kaizen philosophy can be implemented.
They include savings of energy, materials and other resources, the functioning of the working environment, machinery, equipment and processes, product quality, new products, but also customer service.
Practice shows that most often Kaizen helps to eliminate production waste (better use of materials), but also to improve ergonomics of work (making it easier to perform particular activities, each tool is readily available). More and more often, the implementation of the Kaizen philosophy contributes to the improvement of continuous work (repetitiveness of certain activities), and recently, the influence of this philosophy on the automation of processes has become crucial.
Nobody else is better able to prove that a given task can be automated and it is worth it than the employees of an assigned department themselves (and Kaizen allows to find a way to automate it).
How to implement Kaizen principles?
The so-called Deming cycle, also known as the PDCA – Plan, Do, Check, Act.
The first pillar is planning
An action plan should be created to streamline the process. Of course, this will not be possible without a detailed identification of the area or process that we want to improve. In the case of logistics, it is, for example, those parts of the supply chain where flows are worst. We plan how to develop them, select people who will be able to solve the problems identified quickly and, if necessary, to collect the resources needed to be able to implement the plan.
The second pillar is the implementation of the plan
A team of people who decide to implement Kaizen should focus primarily on understanding the investigated problem and the state of the process that requires intervention. This cannot be done without collecting as much data as possible. When implementing a particular solution (e.g. how to organise specific activities within the supply chain), it is worth creating a map of the current state, as well as a so-called road map, i.e. the way to reach the desired situation (with deadlines for implementation). Each member of the team should have a specific role to perform.
The third pillar is checking
Checking the results of the implementation of the plan is mostly a matter of observation and measurements. Usually, this phase should not last less than a month. The more data resulting from analyses, the better.
How much do we reduce the time needed to perform a given supply chain activity? How much do we shorten the way to go? How much do we reduce the consumption of a specific (e.g. packaging) material? – These are questions that can be precisely answered, thus proving that Kaizen implementation makes sense or not. If the so-called added value is not satisfactory, modification proposals should be collected (the opinions of employees who work on the process are of particular importance).
The fourth pillar is improving
If the implementation of the plan proves to be a success, the process should be adopted as a new, binding procedure in the company (it is good to create an instruction manual and define tools for monitoring the modified process). Where necessary, corrective action must be taken. However, if nothing changes for the better after applying Kaizen, the whole cycle has to be repeated from the beginning.