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Kaizen PDCA Tools – from 5S to 5W

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PDCA Cycle Tools

Each of the four types of Kaizen described above share a common denominator in driving improvements forward. The PDCA cycle (Plan, Do, Check, Adjust) is a Lean tool that can be used at any stage of an organizational transformation to drive progress and gauge success. Here’s how each step works:


Develop the plan to execute. Here is where you:

  • Clarify the problem.
  • Set the target to achieve.
  • Create the KPIs that will allow you to measure your plan’s success. Make sure that the  objectives you set are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound).


It’s time to execute the countermeasures you defined. Here you’re likely to apply one or many Lean tools to implement your plan. These might include:

    • 5S: This system uses 5 words (sort, set in order, shine, standardize, sustain) to guide the organization of a workplace for utmost efficiency and productivity.
    • Standard Work: The definition of the most efficient method to produce a product.
    • Visual Management: Through the use of graphics, color-coded information and other visual methods, this system aims to make information easier to grasp immediately. Visual management complements the idea of going to the gemba, or “real place.”
    • Gemba Walk: Get and see with your own eyes the real place where work takes place. Ask questions, and show respect for the people performing this work. As the father of Lean manufacturing Taiichi Ohno said, “Data is, of course, important in manufacturing, but I place the greatest emphasis on facts.” A Gemba walk is a useful way to acquire these facts.
    • Andon: This is a system designed to alert operators and managers of problems in real time so that corrective measures can be taken immediately.
    • Poka-yoke: Any mechanism in the process that help operators to avoid mistakes.
    • Kanban: This a scheduling system helps to achieve Just in Time results from a process.
  • Process Mapping: There are two forms here:
    • VSM: This is a method for analyzing the current state of activities and designing a future state that will take a product or service from its beginning through to the customer with less waste.
    • Swim Lane: This diagram or flowchart visualizes workflow. It can show you the job and responsibilities for each step in a process.
  • Single-minute Exchange of Dies: SMED is one of the many Lean production methods for reducing waste in the manufacturing process. It provides an efficient way of converting a manufacturing setup from the current product to the next product.


Once your plan is set in motion during the “Do” stage, you want to frequently verify the process performance and results. You can apply a dashboard report to help you track and follow-up on the process performance.


It’s important to standardize your successes, learn from the project failures and identify gaps for your next plan. There are many tools available to support this stage of the process, including:

  • 5W2H (5 Why’s and 2 How’s) is a methodology that helps you to define a problem in the most effective way:
    • What? Describe the problem.
    • Why? Why this task is necessary?
    • Where? Where does it occur?
    • When? When did the problem start? What part of the process occurs in?
    • Who? Who is affected?
    • How? How can we recognize there is a trouble?
    • How much? Quantify the problem
  • A3: This is a problem-solving methodology that guides users to:
    • Clarify the problem (with 5W2H)
    • Breakdown problems
    • Set the target
    • Analyze the root cause
    • Develop countermeasures
    • Implement countermeasures
    • Monitor results
    • Standardize
  • Ishikawa, or Fishbone Diagram: This tool helps show the causes of a specific event. It is divided into 5 areas:
    • Manpower (people)
    • Machines
    • Materials
    • Methods
    • Materials


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Continuous Improvement and Kaizen

Creating and Driving a Continuous Improvement and Kaizen Culture

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