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I am questioned often “Isn’t it only possible to implement it because it is in Japan?”- PREX Island

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I am questioned often “Isn’t it only possible to implement it because it is in Japan?”

I am questioned often “Isn’t it only possible to implement it because it is in Japan?

 I am Kentaro Minagawa from Osaka Institute of Technology, and I am in charge of lectures regarding kaizen activities at the training courses.
 At lectures, participants deepen their understanding of 5S and kaizen activities through exercises. In particular, the exercises using Legos are popular; therefore, participants might remember those, especially. At training courses, I talk to people from a variety of cultural backgrounds. Once an Indian person asked me, “Isn’t raising salary the best way to motivate workers?” On another occasion, a Mexican person asked me, “Isn’t self-discipline of 5S more important than 3S?” Also I was questioned, “Isn’t it only possible to implement it because it is in Japan?”

I explain to the participants the importance of purpose-orientated kaizen activities. The results of kaizen activities lead to improved productivity, thereby leading to the production with a smaller number of workers in some cases. If they lose their job as a result of kaizen, such activities do not encourage workers’ enthusiasm. I suggest that kaizen is not for moneymaking but kaizen is for yourselves, as kaizen is to innovate the workplace on your own, as a result, the salary can go up. The workplaces where a further kaizen has been implemented have become the workplaces where workers’ abilities are fully maximized. It is wonderful to create such workplaces, isn’t it? However, I hear sometimes, “Our employees are not enthusiastic about kaizen activities.” It happens in Japan, too. In that case, I advise them to praise their employees. Give them some praise, for example, “Well done, you noticed it”, even if it is a little thing. Then, the person who is praised feels happy and will be motivated.

In this way, I recommend full-size kaizen activities which involve everyone including senior executives. Especially, 5S activities can be implemented by anyone. However, it might not improve things so quickly; therefore, it is important to continue until it improves. It means that “kaizen needs to be done for ever”.

People from overseas take it for granted that all Japanese companies are efficient by implementing kaizen activities. However, there are many companies which are not interested in 5S and kaizen activities. The whole of Japan’s labor productivity is low as it is ranked 21st out of 36 OECD countries (researched by Japan Productivity Center). However, the manufacturing industry has relatively high labor productivity, so I suggest that you should carry out whatever you can at first by referring to well-performing companies. Please find unique ways that suit your company. Sometimes, Japanese also learn from overseas companies, and I also learn lots of things through the training courses. At the end of the training courses, I always say to participants, “I hope that today will be the first day for us to endeavor to implement kaizen activities, and let’s create a better society.

Message to Japanese companies

Interacting with overseas participants provides a good opportunity for Japanese people to perceive new things. I recommend that you take the opportunity to have overseas participants for visits to your companies and/or to interact with them.
Participants from Malaysia and Professor Kentaro Minagawa (fourth from the left at the front)

( Feb 21, 2019 )

  • Date : February 21, 2019
  • Name : Mr.Kentaro Minagawa
  • job name : Osaka Institute of Technology Professor