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The Kaizen Event (Blitz)

Is the Blitz Approach Always Best? 


What Is A Kaizen Blitz?

EventThe Kaizen Blitz (or Kaizen Event) is a focused, short-term project to improve a  process. It includes training followed by a analysis, design, and, often, re-arrangement of a product line or area. Process and Value Stream Mapping are important tools. The usual Kaizen Event takes 2-10 days.

Significant resources such as  Engineering and  Maintenance must be available. Cell Operators are part of the team. A consultant often orchestrates the "Blitz".

Advantages of The Kaizen Blitz

Following von Clausewitz' principle of "concentration" it focuses all resources towards a narrow and specific objective. The intensity and urgency overcomes the intellectual resistance to a new paradigm. People have little time to think of reasons for delay. It forces solutions. 

The execution is dramatic. The results are significant, clear and quick. This generates enthusiasm and satisfaction. The Blitz is a great introductory tool for Lean Manufacturing and its components of Rapid Setup and Workcells.

Dangers in The Blitz

  • The training, for a Blitz is necessarily superficial. There is insufficient time for deep learning of principles, tradeoffs, and design methodology. 

  • The Blitz does not allow time to develop important corollary elements of Lean  Manufacturing. Total Quality management, for example, takes time to introduce and produce results. Teams take months or years to properly develop. These are often forgotten in the afterglow of an event.

  • The overall process may suffer. These events focus on localized areas, and As Goldratt said, "A system of local optimums is not an optimum system." It can result in islands of productivity within a factory that, overall, is a mess. 

  • A Kaizen Blitz is not a substitute for Manufacturing Strategy. Like the infamous 1941 Blitz at Pearl Harbor, a successful tactic can lead to ultimate disaster without sound underlying strategy. 

Where and when is the Blitz OK? 

  • At the beginning of Lean Implementation to shift paradigms and quickly demonstrate results.

  • When an experienced practitioner identifies a simple, independent family of products and processes that fit the slogans and edicts.

  • When the event is part of a well thought out Manufacturing Strategy.

Our series on Implementation shows how to think through the systemic and strategic issues of lean. It can help avoid the dangers of over-reliance on Kaizen Events.

Targets For A Blitz

Originally, Kaizen Events targeted a single work area or single product that might have no more than 20 or so people. Because the scope and scale were limited, the event included rearrangement and implementation of the various improvements. Kaizen events were used for:

We have also had success with Kaizen events that address problems having much larger scale and scope. In one instance, this involved a national company with 20,000 employees and about 10 semi-autonomous divisions. Their problem was that it took 90 days to install a particular product while their competitors required only a few weeks. A team of 30 people from all regions and from ten separate functional areas developed solutions that drastically cut their installation time.

Summary

Rommel, Patton, MacArthur, Hap Arnold, and all military leaders who enjoyed long-term success trained their troops intensely. No matter how colorful their personalities and tactics, they knew that training, learning, and competence is the real basis of success for any organization. 

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