"Gemba" and "kaizen" are Japanese words; the former means “real place” and the latter means “improvement” or “change for the better." Kaizen practices focus on continuous improvement in specific business areas like manufacturing, business processes, management and engineering. Combining the two words in the business context means that gemba is where the real, value-adding activities of improvement take place. Gemba kaizen consists of three approaches: management-oriented kaizen, group-oriented kaizen and individual kaizen.

Problem Identification

The first gemba kaizen principle is identifying the problem; wherever a problem arises, there is room for improvement. Once identified, everyone concerned works toward a suitable solution, and after brainstorming, you choose the best solution to implement. Identifying the problem and working toward a solution should make the job easier, eliminate wasteful activities, boost safety and productivity and improve the quality of the product.

Raising Standards

In order to make improvements in business operations, processes have to be measured. Only with precise standards for each worker, process and machine is change for the better be possible, and the gemba kaizen philosophy is to challenge prevailing standards and replace them with newer and better standards constantly, for continuous improvement. The kaizen principle is based on the fact that small improvements lead to larger rewards for an organization.

Start With the Easiest Changes

After identifying the problem, participants divide it into smaller components that can have individual solutions, starting with the easiest changes to implement. Making small changes increases the possibility of success, at a fairly quick pace. Once the first phase of project change is successful, it is easier and more inspiring to move on to the next, bigger change. Another aspect of this kaizen principle is to work on one area of change at a time, for however long it takes to implement the change. The primary aim should be to make changes that are long-lasting and sustainable.

Employee Involvement

Kaizen principles in lean manufacturing prepare the groundwork for every employee within an organization to take part in the decision-making process. Trusting in employees to determine improvements that will be best suited to a system is vital for change. The employees doing the work know best how to carry it out, so they are in a good position to innovate to improve the system. When ideas originate with the workers themselves, resistance to change is eliminated when a new process is implemented.