Translating Kaizen simply as “continuous improvement” is an oversimplification which does not do justice to the importance of the concept for industrial practice. Kaizen systems should operate as a part of a quality perception and without additional wasteful administrative effort. Kaizen goes beyond most “quality circle” or similar approaches.
Kaizen is meant to operate in small steps without any formality, a problem is seen or an opportunity for improvement perceived, the operators involved discuss the matter, this is often expressed visually, charts or similar are put up, then the group will attack the problem. The solution is immediately put into practice.
Both principles – reducing waste and the prompt improvement of current processes obviously require a high degree of flexiblity and willingnes to change.