KAIZEN Glossary

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A tool of visual management, originating from the Japanese word for ‘lamp’. Most commonly, andons are lights placed on machines or on production lines to indicate operation status. Andons are commonly color-coded green (normal operations), yellow (changeover or planned maintenance), and red (abnormal, machine down). Often combined with an audible signal such as music or alarms. The andon concept can be used to show project status the colors green, yellow, where red where the colors mean "on track, slipping, late" or to indicate general business performance as in "on target, behind target, target missed".

Common Causes

In statistical quality control, the causes of variation inherent in a process over time.

Company Culture

The informal way life is lived and the work is done, based on the values, beliefs, myths and stories played out in the organization. Over time, leaders shape the culture. (See KAIZEN Culture).

Control Chart

A chart with upper and lower control limits within which a machine or process is "in control". Frequently a centerline, midway between the two limits, helps detect trends toward one or the other. Plotting critical measurements on the chart shows when a machine or process has gone "out of control" and must be adjusted. One of the Basic Seven Tools of Quality.

Core Process

The process in a manufacturing or service organization that produces the goods or services for external customers on which the organization depends for its survival.

Cross-Functional Management

The inter-departmental coordination required to realize the strategic and policy goals of KAIZEN and Total Quality Management. Its critical importance lies in the follow-through to achieve goals and measures.

Customer, External

An end-user whom pays for the project or service delivered by a company, thus generating revenue for the company. The goal of world-class companies is to "continually delight" this customer, thus creating "an increasing affection" for its products and services. There may be several external customers, all of whom must be considered by the supplier.

Customer, Internal

The recipient (person, process, or department) of another person's or department's output (product, service or information) within an organization.

Cycle (Lead-Time)

The total time elapsed from when raw material enters the production process until the finished product is ready for shipment to the customer. In service industries, the total time elapsed from when a customer expresses a need to when that need is satisfied.

Deming Cycle

Credited by Edward Deming to Walter Steward of Western Electric (who may have gotten it from John Dewey), the cycle is a concept of how thinking must proceed to create continuous improvement. The most common form of the cycle consists of four elements ? Plan, Do, Check, and Act. Dr. Deming has recently re-termed them ? Plan, Do, Investigate, and Adjust (See PDCA).

Eighty-Twenty Rule

Refers to the Pareto principle, which suggests that most effects stem from relatively few causes; that is, eighty percent of the effects come from twenty percent of the causes.

Five S (5S)

Five Japanese words which refer to systemically cleaning up and maintaining a clean, efficient working environment. A 5S campaign is frequently used to introduce Total Productive Maintenance into a factory.

  • SEPARATE/SCRAP - get rid of all unused equipment, machinery and parts.
  • STRAIGHTEN - arrange all needed equipment, tools, so that there is a place for everything and everything is in its place, easy to locate and close to where it is used.
  • SCRUB - clean up, paint and repair all machinery, aisles, etc.
  • SPREAD - make cleaning and putting things away routine.
  • SYSTEMATIZE - standardize the process.

For more info on what is 5S

Flexible Manning (Shojinka)

A way of managing person-power on the line such that when demand decreases, workers can be re-deployed to areas where needed, or when demand increases, they can be deployed to areas requiring additional support. Preferred to the system of maximizing machine efficiency, which pays no attention to customer demand and TAKT time.

Foundation of KAIZEN

The Three Principles and Seven Concepts of KAIZEN, which serve as a foundation for the systems and tools required for implementation of continual improvement and Total Quality Management, and which shape the culture and thinking of an organization's leadership.


A Japanese word that literally means "the Real Place". Used in the context of KAIZEN, Gemba usually refers to the shop floor or to the place where the Core Process is going on. In a broader sense, Gemba refers to any place in a company where work is being performed; thus one may have an engineering gemba, a sales gemba, an accounting gemba, etc.

Group-Wide Quality Control (GWQC)

A system of continuing interaction among all elements, including suppliers, responsible for achieving the continuously improving quality of products and services that satisfies customer demand.


Automatic parts ejection. Parts may be manually inserted into a machine, but when the cycle is complete the processed part is automatically ejected so the operator can simply insert the new work and move the ejected part on to the next process, thus reducing his/her cycle time.

Just-in-Time (JIT)

A system of managing production processes that results in line- balancing, one-piece flow, little or no excess material inventory on hand at the plant site and little or no incoming inspection. Just In Time is one of the pillar of The Toyota Production System (the other one is Jidoka).


A Japanese term meaning "change for the better". Applied to business organizations, it implies continuing improvement involving everyone that does not cost much, if any money. See: What is Kaizen.

KAIZEN Culture

An organizational culture based on the three super ordinate principles - Process and Results, Systemic Thinking, and Non-judgmental, Non-Blaming.


A communication tool in the Just-in-Time production and inventory control system developed at Toyota. A KANBAN, or signboard - they may also be parts bins - accompanies specific parts in the production line signifying delivery of a given quantity. When the parts have all been used, the sign - or bin - is returned to its origin, where it becomes an order for more. KANBANS are essential parts of the "Pull System" of production.


Japanese word for "Waste". One of the "3 Ms" (Muda, Mura [Irregularity or Unevenness] and Muri [Strain].) There are seven types of Muda ? Overproduction, Inventory, Transportation, Waiting, Motion, Overprocessing, and Correction.

Muda Walk

A half-hour walk through the Gemba to observe evidence of what may be various types of Muda. The object of this walk is to show that the Gemba is full of data and opportunities for improvement for those whose eyes are trained to see them. Muda walks are not intended to provide opportunities for blaming and finding fault.

Non-judgmental, Non-Blaming

One of three KAIZEN Principles. Contrasted to the traditional tendency to find who is to blame for problems and mistakes, this approach looks at the problem with others to seek a solution. Also implicit in this principle is an approach of childlike curiosity about how things work and how they can be improved, instead of judging whether things already done are good or bad, right or wrong. The principle does not imply that managers must never exercise judgment, since good judgment is always required in decision-making.

Non-Statistical Quality Control

Much of quality control is non-statistical, particularly that portion which has to do with human resources. Elements are Self-discipline, Morale, Communications, 1-fuman Relations, and Standardization. Statistics are only one tool in Quality Control and are of limited use with regard to human beings and methods.

One Piece Flow

One-piece flow production is when parts are made one at a time and passed on to the next process. Among the benefits of one-piece flow are 1) the quick detection of defects to prevent a large batch of defects, 2) short lead-times of production, 3) reduced material and inventory costs, and 4) design of equipment and workstations of minimal size.


Credited by Edward Deming to Walter Steward of Western Electric (who may have gotten it from John Dewey), the cycle is a concept of how thinking must proceed to create continuous improvement. The most common form of the cycle consists of four elements ? Plan, Do, Check, and Act. Dr. Deming has recently re-termed them ? Plan, Do, Investigate, and Adjust.


In Japan, this term is used to describe long - and medium-range - management priorities, as well as annual goals or targets. Policy is composed of both goals and measures (ends and means). Goals (Control Points) are usually quantitative figures established by top management, such as sales, profit, and market share. Measures (Check Points) are the specific action programs designed to achieve these goals.

Policy Deployment

The process of implementing the policies of an organization's leadership directly through line managers and indirectly through cross-functional integration and cooperation. Along with Cross-Functional Management, one of the Seven KAIZEN Systems.


Understood in contrast to the KAIZEN concept, Market-In. Assumes that whatever a company knows how to make and when, is good enough to satisfy customer requirements.

Kaizen Glossary Part 2

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