Kaizen is the Japanese word for Continuous Improvement - a series of ongoing incremental improvements by teams focusing on eliminating all forms of waste from the operation - typically with little capital.
Kaizen is a philosophy, not just a process, and it is a crucial component of the Lean Enterprise. Many companies have institutionalized the practice of Kaizen by shop floor teams, and have achieved significant performance advancement through the accumulation of incremental advancements over time.
Example Kaizen Event
Kaizen activities are frequently organized as action-oriented "Events" over a 2-5 day time period. A five-day program follows a schedule something like this:
The Kaizen team includes shop floor personnel who are familiar with the process, and who are tapped to help brainstorm solutions, often with the help of experts who are trained in problem solving methods. This is not to say that the Kaizen philosophy does not extend beyond the shop floor.
In a Lean enterprise, the spirit of Kaizen pervades the organization and extends to the supply chain to impact the full scope of the enterprise in all of its activities.