Lean Manufacturing in situ

(Lean Manufacturing Practices in Medical Device Manufacturing)

Employees, a company’s most important asset, must take the initiative to discover opportunities that will create and deliver results-oriented value to their customers.  Studies have shown that employees have a genuine desire to make contributions to the business, but to do so they must:

  • understand the business value proposition
  • be focused on value to the customer and company
  • be empowered in the decision making processes that affects their job 

Implementing lean tools, such as 5S and Kaizen, is one way that companies enable and engage their employees in the battle against muda, or waste.

 As the proverbial first line of defense, employees are well equipped to assess their own processes for the identification of waste. Developing a method that makes it simple for employees to recommend changes is instrumental to the success of a kaizen program.  KMC Systems has implemented a program called “Kwick Kaizen” that incentivizes employees to engage in a kaizen continuous improvement program. Employees submit ideas for a method change that would improve productivity, quality, cost, delivery and/or safety. After these kaizen idea submissions are reviewed and implemented, a drawing is held periodically at company meetings where a cash reward drawing is selected from participant submissions. This not only rewards the participating employees but also promotes good communication, recognition, and buzz about the company’s commitment to lean.

Below is another example of the company’s commitment to good communication of its lean initiatives, taken from “Journey,” an ESA Lean Newsletter:

If We’d Only Gone with “Change”

taken from “Journey” an ESA Lean Newsletter

Written by Patrick McKillop

Now that we’re all getting our kaizen game on, a cautionary note on its spelling.  Kaizen, as you know, means ’change’.  Kwick means either our Spell-check button is stuck or we were unable to find a suitable word beginning with K to twin with kaizen.  Put Kwick kaizen together, share an agreed definition of the term and we’re well on the way to Continuous Improvement.  But in the same way that we need to pay close attention to the manner in which we improve, we also need to mind our kaizen from our kaizan.  Kaizan is a word that can be used to describe another common business practice, though not one that you would be eager or kwick to lay claim to.  Kaizan means to cook the books.  Fraudulent filling out of paperwork.  I know at least one program manager who spells his kaizen meeting invitations kaizan, and for a donut I’ll gladly pass his name along to the CPI goon squad, have them sit in and see what is really being discussed.

Kwick KaizenMistakes can be made when identifying changes, mistakes which don’tnecessarily rise to the skullduggerous level of kaizan, but nevertheless devalue our honest efforts to improve.  Our definition of kwick kaizen is constantly broadcast from the rooftops and peppered throughout countless documents flitting about our Ethernet. The Quick Kaizenreason it is all pervasive is that when we lose sight of it, we run the risk of slipping from kaizen to kaizan—producing results which don’t pass the sniff test.  We have to repeatedly ask ourselves, does this change or eliminate a genuine waste, add some real value for the customer, make the job easier/better/faster/cheaper?  If it does not, we’re probably not improving a process, we’re simply going through the motions of completing a pointless administrative task—a sham KK.  But a KK without value is really a Kostly Kaizan because it wastes the time it takes to create and it brings nobody any benefit.  When we do the work to come up with and implement good ideas, we should double-check that they satisfy the simple demands of kaizen and could not possibly be confused with kaizan.  Do it right, spell it right, avoid a grilling from the CPI heavies.


KMC Systems, medical device design, medical device manufacturing

Topics: medical device contract manufacturing, lean manufacturing, lean manufacturing practices, lean medical device manufacturing