Kaizen. It is a word synonymous with improvement inorganizations around the world. While the Japanese wordliterally means ‘improvement’, in industry and business the focus is on small, continuous steps to better processes. It is embedded in the management thinking of many organizations.
Japanese businesses developed Kaizen practices around the 1950s, most notably Toyota as part of their Toyota Production System. After studying why the company was so successful at high-volume production of high-quality vehicles in the 1960s, Masaaki Imai wrote several books on Kaizen and formed the Kaizen Institute, spreading the knowledge and practice around the globe.
However, there are times when Kaizen is not enough. Worse still, a small improvement can often hold an organization back, perhaps even stifling significant development.
The electric light did not come from continuous improvement of candles
Many businesses assume they need to “start small” when it comes to warehouse automation. Unfortunately, by focusing exclusively on small improvements, you may miss opportunities to gain competitive advantage in costs and customer service. If interim investments are not part of a planned larger final system, they could be a false start.