Kaizen and small things – A recent example

This picture shows a recent example of genuine Kaizen in a US factory. The workpiece in the vise is 28 ft long, and requires greasing in multiple locations. The operator on the left was tired of running back and forth to a fixed location to pick up the grease. The cart now contains everything he needs to apply grease anywhere on the work piece, and he wheels it back and forth as needed. To the right is the production supervisor for the area, who supports this and other similar projects.

How was it actually done? The production team from this area was given a budget of $500/operator to spend as they saw fit on supplies and devices for improvement projects at a Home Depot store. Their actual spend worked out to $113/operator, including the cart and bins you see on the picture and a magnetic sweeper.

It is a perfect illustration of the Kaizen concept. It is too small an improvement to warrant the attention of engineers or managers, yet it makes the work easier for the operator and makes him more productive. The only way to make sure such improvements are made is to enable and encourage the people who do the work so that they do it themselves. It is a valuable part of Lean, but it is not all of it. Higher-level issues must also be addressed, include make-versus-buy decisions and production line layout.