Continuous Improvement Utilizing The Kaizen Method

Written by Citation Expert: David Molé, Manager of Label Control

All good businesses recognize the need for continuous improvement.  If you don’t continually look for ways to make things better, your competitors can leave you in the dust and you can ultimately lose your customers and your business.  There are many ways to analyze processes in trying to continually improve.  At AWT, Kaizen (a Japanese term meaning, “Change for the Better”) has been a major method used to dissect and evaluate processes for continuous improvement and now Citation Healthcare Labels (CHL) has begun utilizing these beneficial methods.

Kaizen has many proven theories including one that focuses on initiating small and steady steps, as opposed to overhauling methods with giant steps.  There are some key supporting factors on why the small, intermittent steps can overtake the large, cumbersome steps.  Most people are familiar with the saying, “Slow and steady wins the race.”  Well, that basically fits Kaizen’s timing, expectations, strategy, and success.

Additionally, most people are afraid of change and it’s hard to convince them that change is sometimes necessary and advantageous, especially with the continual growth of technologies and, in CHL’s case, the everchanging evolution and demands of clinical labels.  Kaizen’s methods have proven to strategically utilize the brain chemistry behind people’s basic fear of change.  In summary, small steps are easier to accept when making changes.

Other advantages Kaizen offers are related toward developing a teamwork mentality.  Members who become involved can feel rewarded when they see the end-result.  No “one” person knows all the answers and it’s pleasantly evident that Kaizen’s methods recognize that very important factor; plus, Kaizen ultimately offers others to feel like a true team member as they try to collectively help the company progress.

Earlier this year, AWT introduced the Kaizen technique of continuous improvement to Citation.  The charter event was focused on a key step in our production process of our booklets.  The team for this initial event was comprised of Quality Assurance, Operations, Production, and IT team members.

The first step during the process was to collect current state data and identify places for improvements.  The team reviewed forms, paperwork, placement of materials on the press floor and videos of jobs being setup and run on the press.  One of the key findings was related to process steps.  Before Kaizen, only Quality Assurance (QA) associates were tasked with performing these process steps.  It was established by the current GMP terms these clearances did not necessitate QA as the only suitable employees for such processes.  This change broadened the number of tasked employees from 8 to 17, which clearly shortened the wait-for-approval time.

There were various other team findings which helped simplify processes without sacrificing quality or compliance and simplify the forms without losing data.  As a result, significant time savings (~ 42%) were achieved.

A Sustainment Plan (a Kaizen initiative) has already been put into place and Kaizen will continue to be utilized at Citation Healthcare Labels.  More events are already lined up for this productive technique. One has already begun!