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How Do You Implement Kaizen?

Kaizen is a Japanese word typically used to describe a practice and process of continual improvement in a process.  Toyota is famous for it's application.  A worker can stop an assembly line to point out and correct an imperfect process.  The theory was developed by Deming and taken from the U.S. to Japan after WWII.


My reading seems to indicate that Kaizen is a lot of small improvements.  It seems to rely on good measurements and a base line.


Do we farmers conscioulsy think about making small improvements?  Or do we tend to do the same thing over and over?  Do we keep records so we can compare how we do with how we did, or do we rely on memory to measure this year's production against last year?


Many of us fix things and improve things, but do we do it as a continual process or do it we do it one isolated instance at a time?

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5 Replies
Honored Advisor

Re: How Do You Implement Kaizen?

Intriguing question. Seems to imply a pursuit towards perfection.

Am more of a proponent of the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, which embraces the fact that nothing is perfect, nothing is permanent, and nothing is ever complete.

Used to wear myself and everyone else out,trying to reach the impossible state of perfection that being OCD makes me crave. Now, I can say, " Good enough!"

This is not to say that we shouldn't strive to do our best...I think that is admirable. It is to say we should find a way to blend Kaizen with a reasonable measure of wabi-sabi, for a balanced approach.

As for the basic question of comparative measurements, I used our semiannual financial statements to our lender for many years, to measure progress in gaining net worth, paying diwn debt, anpmassing savings, etc. Now, I am more prone to asking if something feels right. Maybe that means I have moved the "bottom line" away from the $$$ balance sheet?
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Re: How Do You Implement Kaizen?

I took a tour of the Toyota plant on Kyushu island. They let groups of workers use company time to work on improvement projects. Have a contest once a year, winning group gets cash incentive among other gifts. Some of the inventions have saved the company millions, thus saving the customer money. The difference between a Toyota and Lexus car is workers need multiple years experience before even attempting to qualify for the Lexus line. Also over 3,000 more checkpoints on a Lexus car before it is allowed to leave the factory.

I think family farmers strive for continuos improvement whereas BTO's strive for financial improvement leaving the rest up to their suppliers. Fertilizer, equipment etc.
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Senior Advisor

Re: How Do You Implement Kaizen?

Interesting subject Jim - You come up with so good " Thinking " questions - which sometimes is not my strong suit - Smiley Happy


I read this many years ago and how I think I -- " TRY " and make it work for me - Don't how this works in with what you posted , but here go's -- Proficiency can be maintained only by working at it : Wernher Von Braun 



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Senior Contributor

Re: How Do You Implement Kaizen?

It has been my experience working parttime off farm since mid-90'ies in manufacturing plants , farm jobs [feeding livestock..trac driver] that any suggestion worker has which could possibly improve work-flow ...or reduce job hours... or increasejob output if hrs kept the same wil not be put into operation.


  UNTIL...enough time has passed that said idea can be introduced by owner/manager as Their Idea to improve work output..effiency , etc.


 Non-union situations.



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Frequent Contributor

Re: How Do You Implement Kaizen?

I wrote a story in Mid-March 2014  Business Partners' story (page 49)featuring a Wisconsin

dairy producer who used W. Edwards Deming¹s philosophy (adapted from Kaizen).

He used it to guide his management philosophy with all of his employees, and felt it worked

especially well with his Hispanic employees. I included this online source of more information:


One of Deming's principles, #8, is to remove fear from the workplace. "I've never fired anyone

in 25 years," the farmer said. "We do a lot of training."

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