16. Sep. 2009

How can KAIZEN™ and Lean improve productivity

by Richard Steel

Long-term trend of productivity under-performance is the biggest economic challenge

 A recent government forum has highlighted the fact that New Zealand is losing the productivity battle with other comparative countries, and it is time to do something positive about it

Speaking at The Icehouse business growth centre in Auckland, John Whitehead, Secretary to the Treasury, made the following comments about that the fact that productivity performance is critical to raising the living standards of New Zealanders.

New Zealand’s long-term trend of productivity under-performance is the biggest economic challenge facing policy-makers and both the public and private sectors in New Zealand”.

Long-term productivity growth is not yet meeting our aspirations, which means many of our aspirations for a better quality of life are going unmet. Our capacity to raise our standard of living depends on our ability to raise output per worker – the amount of goods and services each worker produces and the value they add. It comes back to the old adage about working smarter rather than harder,

So what is the relationship between productivity and the Japanese management philosophy Kaizen and the Lean tools associated with successful companies such as Toyota?

Founder of KAIZEN® Institute, Mr. Masaaki Imai was the first to write about KAIZEN®, which he defines as “ongoing improvement involving every day, everywhere, everyone, including both Managers and workers alike”.

The term “Lean thinking” originated from Daniel T Jones and James P Womack, as they commentated on the way that Toyota were perfecting their operations using TPS and KAIZEN®. Lean thinking is defined as “a way to specify value, line up value-creating actions in the best sequence, conduct these activities without interruption whenever someone requests them, and perform them more and more effectively”.

So KAIZEN® (also referred to as Lean) is a crucially important solution to how we can improve our productivity. By getting everybody involved in the relentless pursuit of improvement using Lean tools to develop operational excellence in all parts of the organisation.

Globally we are seeing the steady rise of kaizen, Lean and Six Sigma methodologies. In these troubled times of finacial turmoil,we in New Zealand should embrace this strategy to move with the times and start to catch up.

http://www.treasury.govt.nz/publications/media-speeches/speeches/puttingproductivityfirst

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