Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Kaizen and TPM the concepts behind lean manufacturing

During my time at Unilever I worked as an HR manager at their largest production plant for Home & Personal Care in Pakistan. As a novice to the production floor I was soon flooded with terms and abbreviations I had never heard of. Two of these which I remember in particular are (1) Kaizen and (2) TPM. Their definitions can be found below:

Kaizen: a Japanese business philosophy of continuous improvement of working practices, personal efficiency, etc. Specifically to reduce wastage.

TPM: Total Productive Maintenance originated in Japan in 1971 as a method for improved machine availability through better utilization of maintenance and production resources.

There is no coincidence that both methodologies originate from Japan and are focused on improving efficiency and reducing wastage. It is this philosophy of Kaizen that led to Toyota's focus on improving their production process and it was TPM that helped them achieve it. Kaizen can be thought to be the mantra behind lean manufacturing whereas TPM is one its leading strategies. 

This process is so strongly rooted with Japanese standards of excellence that even in Pakistan every year we would have a team of Japanese consultants who would fly in from Japan to check whether the factory staff was living the Kaizen philosophy and had achieved marked improvements via TPM implementation. True this was only possible as we were part of the global giant that is Unilever but it is still testament to the company's belief in the system. Unilever was particularly focused on reducing its wastage during my time at the company as it had recently made a global commitment to double its production and reduce its carbon footprint by half! A detailed account of their targets and strategies to achieving this can be found here

After researching I found that this consulting of sorts was not only sought by Unilever but had a large client base amongst some of the foremost companies in the world. The Kaizen Institute is one of the most famous such group of consultants and has several success stories across industries to corroborate their impact. 

On a side note I am still less than satisfied with Dell's no warehouse policy. I agree that we can reduce storage but to eliminate it altogether? It is mentioned in the article that their excellent forecasting allows them to produce accurately. In case they make a misjudgement they introduce an offer on either the product that is overproduced or incentivize the sale of a similar alternate product in case there is no stock available. Plus the thrill of living on the edge might work for affluent CEOs but I am sure the work environment for the manufacturing team must be a very high pressure job; waiting on a moment's notice to change their production plans.

In the same vein my question for the week is: Do you see Dell's philosophy of no storage catching on and is it a model that can be implemented across industries? ( Hard to imagine how it can work for consumer goods)


  1. Article is giving really productive information to everyone. Well done.
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  2. I read over your blog, and i found it inquisitive, This blog can help us from every end as it can motivate us whenever the need accur to apply Kaizen in business.


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