The Sino-Japanese word “kaizen” simply means “change for better”. The word refers to any improvement, one-time or continuous, large or small.
After WWII, prior to the arrival of Mellen in 1951, the ESS group had a training film to introduce the three TWI “J” programs (Job Instruction, Job Methods and Job Relations) – the film was titled “Improvement in 4 Steps” (Kaizen eno Yon Dankai). Thus “Kaizen” was introduced to Japan. For the pioneering, introduction, and implementation of Kaizen in Japan, the Emperor of Japan awarded the 2nd Order Medal of the Sacred Treasure to Dr. Deming in 1960.
Kaizen is a daily process, the purpose of which goes beyond simple productivity improvement. It is also a process that, when done correctly, humanizes the workplace, eliminates overly hard work (“muri”). Kaizen is most commonly associated with manufacturing operations, as at Toyota, but has also been used in non-manufacturing environments.
A person who makes a large contribution in the successful implementation of kaizen during kaizen events is awarded the title of “Zenkai”.