What Is a Kaizen Event?

February 16, 2023

A kaizen event is a brainstorming session aimed at improving a process. Kaizen is a Japanese term comprising two words, “Kai” and “Zen,” which mean “change” and “good,” respectively. Put together, the term roughly translates to “good change” or “improvement.”

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In manufacturing, kaizen involves focusing on small and incremental ways of improving your operations and processes. It requires continuously questioning your previous and present performance, keeping a close eye on data, and being open to new ways of doing things.

Kaizen is a fundamental part of Toyota’s lean manufacturing methodology, which refers to the philosophy of “continuous improvement.” In fact, it is commonly referred to as “The Toyota Way” as the term itself was coined by Toyota.

“The two pillars of the Toyota way of doing things are kaizen (the philosophy of continuous improvement) and respect and empowerment for people, particularly line workers. Both are absolutely required for lean to work.”


Kaizen vs. Kaizen Event

Kaizen refers to the principle and culture of incremental improvement.

A “kaizen event,” on the other hand, refers to a particular session aimed at creating improvements. While part of a long-term strategy, individual kaizen events are short term in nature. They are meant to be quick and focused on a single problem or challenge.

Ideally, kaizen events bring together all the team members involved in a business process. Managers, supervisors, team leaders, floor staff, and other stakeholders collaborate to brainstorm ways to improve existing processes.

As established, kaizen events are part of lean methodology. Consequently, they focus on eliminating the eight wastes, which are:

  • Defects: The last thing you want is a defective product. Defects lead to waste in terms of needing to discard the product entirely. Even if you don’t have to get rid of the product, you’ll be wasting resources to rework or fix the defects.
  • Overproduction: Overproduction waste results from manufacturing more than is necessary to meet market demand.
  • Waiting: This refers to time wasted waiting between steps in the production process. It includes employees waiting on equipment or materials necessary for maintenance or production. Waiting waste also refers to idled equipment waiting to be put to use.
  • Non-utilized Talent: This type of waste results when you don’t maximize the skill set of your employees.
  • Transportation: This refers to time and effort spent transporting raw materials, equipment, staff, and finished products further than is necessary.
  • Inventory: While avoiding running out of inventory is a good idea, excess inventory can also lead to waste. This waste includes resources spent managing and storing inventory.
  • Motion: Similar to transportation waste, motion waste refers to any unnecessary motion in the manufacturing process. This waste includes any unnecessary movement such as lifting, bending, and stretching or moving materials or tools from one place to another. Organizational efficiency can reduce motion waste.
  • Extra Processing: This involves waste resulting from spending more time and effort on a product than is required. Overprocessing can mean having extraneous steps in the production process or adding components to the product that the customer doesn’t need.

When Should You Use a Kaizen Event?

Kaizen refers to a culture of continuous improvement. As such, teams should implement the principles every day. Kaizen events, however, are a specific tool in the improvement process.

If you notice a business process isn’t working as planned, you might need a brainstorming session. How this works will vary from organization to organization, depending on business goals. One major trigger for kaizen events is awareness of waste in one of the categories listed above.

Here are some instances under which kaizen events should come into play:

  • When an urgent problem arises: You might notice a drop in production levels or an increase in asset failure and downtime. Brainstorming sessions are a good line of action here, especially as part of a more extensive root cause analysis
  • When you aren’t getting as far as you want with your daily improvement efforts: It helps to take a step back and put heads together to figure out what’s not working.
  • When you’re trying to execute cross-functional collaboration: Employees from multiple teams sometimes work together on particular projects. A brainstorming session will help ensure successful collaboration by getting everyone on the same page.
  • When you need to hit specific targets or goals: This could involve specific goals for anything from increased production levels to greater customer satisfaction to shorter lead times.

“Process maps show how people think a process typically works or how it should work. How the process actually works is often quite different.”


How to Use a Kaizen Event

Kaizen events are similar to the DMAIC method used in six sigma. DMAIC is an acronym for a process that seeks to define, measure, analyze, improve, and control.

While this process can serve as a broad template, a few more steps are necessary to ensure a successful kaizen event. These are:

Training and Preparation

While kaizen events should be short term, they shouldn’t be spontaneous. To ensure they are focused, a team leader should put together a kaizen team, define the problem, and outline the desired outcomes of the kaizen event.

Team members also can carry out a gemba walk to observe bottlenecks and areas of waste. After, the team can use value stream mapping to document the current state. Finally, the team can brainstorm ideas and develop an action plan to reach a new, improved future state. 


With a clear action plan, team members can begin the necessary changes. Whether these changes involve tweaking existing processes or instituting new ones entirely, you should use data to support your actions.


After implementing the action plan, the facilitator should lead a discussion on how to follow up and review the new process. One goal should be to monitor the effects of changes to the current process. Again, teams should aim to capture data in key areas.

Leaders should also offer guidance on how to sustain the process improvements. Ideally, you’ll have specific metrics and KPIs outlined for staff to keep an eye on going forward.

Optimize Your Kaizen Events with MaintainX

MaintainX is a Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) with a range of features that can help execute your kaizen events. In addition, MaintainX is the first work order software with chat, making real-time communication within your team easy.

MaintainX comes with a full range of functionality, including automated work orders and dashboards for data tracking. With MaintainX, you can:

Looking to analyze and improve your processes for your next kaizen event? Give MaintainX a try.

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Lekan Olanrewaju
Lekan Olanrewaju
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