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The 7 Wastes and the PDCA Cycle: Essence of Toyota’s KAIZEN (Continuous Improvement)

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The 7 Wastes and the PDCA Cycle: Ess...

Toyota’s improvement activities have spread to the world as KAIZEN, which means ‘Continuous Improvement’. In the Toyota Production System, the basis of improvement activities is the thorough elimination of wastes, and the other pillar of improvement activities is the PDCA Cycle.

(Duration: 3:59)

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Essence of Toyota’s KAIZEN (Continuous Improvement)

Hi, this is Mike Negami, Lean Sigma, Black Belt.

This episode is about the second Lean Sigma characteristic that we must always be aware of during any Lean Sigma activities. The title is “KAIZEN – More than Improvement”. Here is an interesting story:

You may know that KAIZEN in English means ‘continuous improvement’, but you may not know that KAIZEN in Japanese just means ‘improvement’. Now I’m lecturing Japanese people that KAIZEN in the roman alphabet means ‘Continuous Improvement’.

By the way, other Japanese words, like Muda, which means ‘Waste’, and Gemba, which means ‘The real place’, commonly used by many Lean Sigma people in the US as well. Lean and Six Sigma have been influenced by Japanese business methodologies that much.

Also I feel that those Lean Sigma people have more than a little of the sense of longing and respect for Japanese businesses. It’s a little sad to know that most Japanese people don’t know foreigners feel that way at all. I’m aiming for the day Japanese people have confidence and pride in Lean Sigma.

Toyota clarified the definition of waste: the 7-Wastes

I’ll return to the topic of KAIZEN. The basic improvement activities in Toyota are to eliminate wastes thoroughly. What’s great about Toyota is that they clarified the definition of waste. They named it ‘The 7 Wastes’. The 7 wastes are Defects, Overproduction, Waiting, Non-added-value processing, Transportation, Inventory and Motion.

Toyota is saying those 7 wastes should be as close to 0 as possible. Lean Sigma people here in the US memorize the 7 wastes as DOWNTIME. This acronym consists of initials of each waste. I’ll explain about DOWNTIME in the next episode as well as more about the 7 wastes.

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Also, you may think “Since my job is not manufacturing, I’ve got nothing to do with the 7 wastes.” That is absolutely not true. I’ll explain about that as well in the next episode.

The foundation to achieving KAIZEN is the PDCA Cycle

The foundation to achieving KAIZEN is the PDCA Cycle. You absolutely cannot achieve KAIZEN without this. I think that all junior high schools should teach this to their students. This is such a great concept, but in fact it is very simple.

P is for ‘Plan’. Before whatever you do, first prepare and make a plan. D is for ‘Do’. Execute the plan. C is for ‘Check’. Evaluate how well you achieved your plan at some point. And A is for ‘Act’. Address or improve the situation based on the evaluation.

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Don’t end there. Continue to the next round’s P. Continue repeating this cycle. That’s why this is named PDCA ‘Cycle’. This is a great foundation of improvement activities. However it is such a shame that this is known and utilized by only a small amount of people.

Basics of PDCA Cycle

In Lean Sigma, we are expected to incorporate the concept of this PDCA Cycle completely in the target process. It’s especially important in designing your process to allow operators to conduct the ‘Plan’ and ‘Check’ functions effectively and seamlessly.

I’ve now completed this episode ‘KAIZEN – More than Improvement’. Before going into the third Lean Sigma characteristic, the next episode is about DOWNTIME in a little more detail.

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