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Evaluating alternative approaches to Kaizen: a case of four Sino-Japanese joint ventures

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Tom McGovern, Professor Christian Hicks


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The Toyota Production System (TPS) is often illustrated using the ‘TPS House’ in which Jidoka (autonomation) and just-in-time are the two pillars. Heijunka (production levelling), Standardised work and Kaizen (continuous improvement) are the foundations. Kaizen is particularly important because it is applied to all Lean tools and processes. The literature distinguishes between the ‘Kaizen Blitz’, which is a short term approach that uses Master Classes/Rapid Improvement Workshops and the long-term approach of continuous improvement or Kaizen. This paper reports on how Kaizen is operated in four Sino-Japanese joint venture automotive companies (involving Toyota, Nissan and Honda). The work also identifies a type of dedicated and Kaizen-oriented improvement system that has been adopted in the case companies. The system consists of Quality Circle (QC) groups and individual proposal scheme for both short-term breakthrough improvements and long-term ongoing Kaizen. Further, the work critically compares the approaches to the full implementation of this system and contrasts it with the traditional improvement system. The main differences related to the QC tools used, the focus of activities, the number of people involved in each QC group, the type of suggestion systems used and the incentives used to encourage staff participation. The work identifies and outlines good shop floor management practices that can be adopted to support Kaizen. This should be helpful to those seeking to embed and sustain Lean Production Systems.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Ma J, McGovern T, Hicks C

Editor(s): Grubbstrom,RW; Hinterhuber,HH;

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: Sixteenth International Working Seminar on Production Economics

Year of Conference: 2010

Number of Volumes: 4

Pages: 325-336