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June 25, 2018

Japanese-Style ‘Kaizen’ Spreads in Africa; Handbook Near Completion

photoThe Kaizen Handbook, created by JICA

In Africa, where a rapid increase of population and job creation is an issue, enhancing productivity and competitiveness is an immediate challenge.

Kaizen, a Japanese management approach of continuous improvement to achieve enhanced quality and productivity, may prove useful in this effort. Kaizen was originally developed during the post-war period in Japan, where it supported the high growth of the Japanese manufacturing sector. It is a participatory approach that places importance on human resource development.

"The Kaizen Handbook," a guidebook for African practitoners on Kaizen dissemination and human resource development, is near completion. It will be unveiled at the Kaizen Annual Conference to be held in South Africa in July with more than 100 people from all over the world attending.This article discusses recent trends in Kaizen.

photoCountries engaged in Kaizen

Plastic manufacturer in Ethiopia boosts productivity by 20 percent

photoExpert Kozo Sakai, second from right, who gives instruction in Kaizen at Ethiopian companies

In December 2016, a letter arrived for JICA expert Kozo Sakai, who is working on Kaizen in Ethiopia.

The letter said, "Thanks to Kaizen, our machines' availability time increased by more than 30 percent, our defects dropped, and our overall productivity rose by more than 20 percent," followed by the comment "I want to make Kaizen common."

The letter was from a plastic product manufacturer in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia.

photoBefore Kaizen. The state of the machine for making major products.

It's been about 30 years since the company was founded. Previously, sales were sluggish, the machines producing major products had a low utilization rate and the defect rate was high.

The company managers were at their wits' end.

Before Kaizen was introduced, the machines were dirty, the wiring was tangled and the floor was sticky with oil and waste water. Inside the factory, there were so many defective products scattered there was nowhere to stand.

photoAfter Kaizen. The machine has stopped leaking oil and the wires are well-organized.

A project team consisting of Mr. Sakai and consultants from the Ethiopian KAIZEN Institute (EKI) gave 180 employees of this company training in the importance of machine maintenance and made them think about the causes of product defects and solutions.

One of the basic tools of Kaizen is something known as 5S: "sort, set in order, shine, standardize and sustain." In the process of cleaning the machines, workers found loose bolts and oil leaks, and it became clear that the tangled wires were hindering the passage of electric current. Furthermore, as the result of a defect-causes survey, they learned that an operation for applying heat and pressure was being done improperly. After that, improvements came one after another.

Initiatives spread and KAIZEN conferences take root

photoA seminar by Kaizen consultants

In March 2018, two Cameroonian consultants who were trained through a JICA Kaizen project were sent to the Far North Region of Cameroon where poverty is a severe problem. They went to conduct a seminar on marketing and 5S for young prospective entrepreneurs. Thus, JICA partnered with the United Nations Development Programme to help create jobs and promote KAIZEN in the region.

About 30 people participated in the seminar and had favorable responses such as "I want to use this method when I start my business" and "The information was practical."

photo Members of the team that won the competition at the 7th Kaizen Convention in Zambia

Kaizen seminars are held in various countries to share success stories and lessons learned. In Zambia in February 2018, the 7th National Kaizen Conference was held jointly by JICA and Kaizen Institution Zambia.

Nineteen teams competed this year and there was a dual winner. One of the winners was from a packaging-material manufacturer whose daily production volume increased 38 percent through maintenance of its production-line equipment.

There is also an international convention that is held every year. This year it will be held in Singapore in October. The winning teams from various counties will compete.

The 7th Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD 7), which is attended by the heads of African countries, is expected to be held in Japan next year, and Kaizen is likely to gather even more steam in Africa.


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