MANEZH. Kaizen. Small steps to great happiness

01/ 06/ 2020

Recently, we often hear about a new system of management and doing business under the Japanese name of Kaizen, which is already actively spreading all over the world. It turns out that this is a whole philosophy of life. Together with the column partner MANEZH, which has been the ambassador of Kaizen in Ukraine for more than 10 years, we will try to understand this issue.

We owe the appearance of Kaizen to the Japanese. Toyota pioneered this. After the Second World War, the rules of the game changed, and previous methods in business simply did not work, so to compete in the world market, they had to look for other concepts of organization of production and management. Toyota took the best of the best. For example, from Cadillac – interchangeability of details and workers and standardization of processes, from Ford – mass assembly line and, as a consequence, they lowered product costs and increased productivity. Thus they gradually crystallized the philosophy of Kaizen, the essence of which is constant improvement. This desire is generally inherent in Japanese culture and worldview.

MANEZH’s activities are organized on the principle of Lean production

The hieroglyph “kaizen” consists of two parts. The particle “kai” means “change”, and “zen” – “good”, which together determines the quintessence of the philosophy of Kaizen – good changes or changes for the better. The term itself appeared only in 1986, when Masaaki Imai’s book “Kaizen”: The Key to the Success of Japanese Companies” was published, although the concept of business described in the book was applied about three or four decades before.

The particle “Kai” means changes, and “Zen” means good, which together gives the quintessence of Kaizen philosophy - good changes or changes for the better.

According to the concept of Kaizen, everyone is involved in the process of improvement – from managers to workers, and its implementation requires relatively small material costs. The philosophy of Kaizen suggests that our life in general (work, public and private) should be focused on continuous improvement. This idea is so natural and obvious to many Japanese that they use it without thinking! It explains the fact that a country that essentially lost the war without any special resources, including territorial ones, almost instantly recovered from the losses, giving life to companies that soon competed with the West, and then it will be included in all textbooks as a “Japanese economic miracle”? Many of these companies are still in the forefront of the world market.

A fragment of the interior of the office and production complex of MANEZH, Cherkasy

And here we need to pay attention to the difference in approach to changes in the West and in Japan. As we know, they can be sharp and slow. So Western management is more inclined to innovation – large-scale changes to achieve technological breakthroughs, as well as the latest concepts of management or production technology. Innovation involves a radical change, on which the main attention is focused, while the little ones are almost ignored. Japanese management prefers slow changes.

It is clear that in business, production, in everyday life there are both, but the Japanese try to avoid sudden fluctuations, believing that small but steady steps are a harmonious path to success. Although improvements in Kaizen are small and gradual, but after some time their implementation gives impressive results. It explains why Japanese companies do not stop in their development, while in Western corporations after sharp rises and rapid breakthroughs usually comes a period of stagnation. “However, innovation is like a single shot, and its results are often mixed, while the Kaizen process, based on common sense and low cost, provides steady progress that justifies itself in the long term,” Masaaki Imai wrote in his other book, “Gemba Kaizen: way to reduce costs and improve quality”.

Kaizen is a system of continuous improvement, optimization of processes for the best result at a lower consumption of resources.

Kaizen is often a prosaic process and does not catch the eye. And this is an approach that is characterized by low risk. Managers can always return painlessly to their old ways of working. Most “truly Japanese” management methods, such as “total quality control” or “company-wide quality control”, “quality circles” and the style of employment, can be described in one word “Kaizen”. Not all of them are limited by the Japanese style of management. On the contrary, they should rather be seen as important principles to be applied by managers around the world. Proper approaches and thoughtful use of appropriate processes allow any company, no matter where it is, to benefit from Kaizen.

The main question is whether this system will work in our reality? Does it fit our mental characteristics? It turned out that it works and is quite effective. For more than 10 years, MANEZH, an innovative leader in the design and production of sun protection systems, has been successfully implementing Kaizen in the company.

Marina Dyachenko, founder and CEO MANEZH

“Production is a process from an idea to a certain product. It’s like a way of life: you set goals, make decisions, go through certain stages and at the same time get pleasure from the process itself. So, production is a pleasure in the process,” says CEO MANEZH Maryna Dyachenko. She is an electrical engineer by profession, and started her business 23 years ago in an ordinary garage, a 20-foot container and a rented office in the former sports complex “Manezh” in Cherkasy.

“I learned about Kaizen by accident in 2008,” recalls Marina, “when I met Serhiy Snisarenko from Kremenchuk, who was engaged in the production of exhibition equipment and implemented this system in his company. He played two games with us and helped to identify, on the one hand, systemic shortcomings in the company, and on the other – problems in ourselves, such as unwillingness to work effectively (and do the old way), make changes and act in new ways. I was interested in this information. On his recommendation, I began to read books about Kaizen and to hendle it. An additional catalyst was the crisis of 2008, which did not bypass MANEZH and forced me as a leader to look for new ways to increase efficiency and build a team to get out of a difficult situation.”

Office and production complex of the company MANEZH, Cherkasy. The architect is Ivan Popel

In the same year, MANEZH moved to a new office and production complex. But they moved there with the philosophy of the old format, the format of old garage. For example, the shops of horizontal, vertical, wooden blinds were originally organized separately and separated from each other by racks, where too many components and extra tools are preserved. Now the picture is completely different: the space is completely reformatted, the components are sorted, and they are stored as much as needed to produce a certain amount of products, mobile equipment, with folding parts, there are visualization boards and boards with tools.

The main result of the implementation of Kaizen is a completely different, mature corporate culture.

The implementation of Kaizen in the company began with the analysis and results of losses: time spent on unnecessary movement of personnel in production areas; shortages that have accumulated in warehouses and shops, the number of components in the main warehouse, the irrational use of space for equipment. “That’s how we identified,” Marina explains, “where we lose the most time and resources.” Based on the analysis, the production areas were optimized, and then quality control was built into the production process, preventing defective parts from being further used, and a complete supply system was introduced from the warehouse, when only the required number of parts is delivered to production.

Sorting is an important principle of Kaizen, which is also followed in the production of MANEZH

To show how the use of Kaizen has affected the state of production of MANEZH, Marina gives a few figures. Thanks to the changes, the company reduced the number of inventories in production by 80% (production is stored in warehouses as much as it is needed to deliver, without excessive accumulation of finished products), reduced order execution time by 43% and increased productivity by 50%, and optimized production space to free 350 sq. m for additional units of new equipment. Moreover, quality control at all stages helped to reduce the number of defects and alterations by 44%, while the implementation of standardized procedures accelerated the process of staff training by 66%.





It provides the study of each employee in the specifics of equipment maintenance, which allows you to quickly eliminate minor problems, avoid downtime and not depend on the actions of colleagues where it is not necessary. For example,

you can learn to install simple programs on your computer or scan it without waiting for a system administrator.



These are written instructions that determine the sequence of typical operations. They help to significantly reduce the time to adapt employees, avoid many mistakes, especially when performing complex procedures.



It means moving towards a great goal step by step Doing at least something every day to achieve it, gaining small victories on the way to realization.



An interactive question technique to identify the cause-and-effect relationships that underlie problems. It allows you to find the root cause and solve the problems by correcting the process. For example, there are problems with the contractor – ask yourself why. Didn’t you choose right? Did you vaguely set the task? Was information misperceived by the contractor? After receiving the answer, ask yourself again why. And so several times (five questions should be enough).  For example, the reason is insufficient source data from the customer. Then you can develop a standard for obtaining such information – a comprehensive questionnaire that will help get the most information from the client at the start, as well as correctly understand the client’s wishes and expected results and, accordingly, offer the right solution from the first time.



The principle “go and see”. Proper organization of the workspace and processes, so that the state of the entire system, and hence the problems that arise, can be seen immediately. You need a good visualization to avoid questions about the order of actions or the content of processes.



Seiri – sorting

Seiso – keeping clean

Seiton – keeping order

Shhitsuke – improvement

It helps to get rid of losses and efforts, to improve the moral and psychological situation (because no one will feel good when forced to work in chaos), increases productivity. You only need, for example, to sort things at your workplace (pencils, markets, stickers, etc.), organize documents, such as printed design documentation, be sure to get rid of unnecessary and follow the established procedure. Make your daily habit to clean the workplace after work. To see if this strategy works, try finding the right thing in your workplace in 30 seconds. If you succeed, keep it up!



It reduces switching time from one piece of equipment or type of work to another, which in turn reduces resource costs for product creation and storage.



Product quality management during all stages of work. The basic principle: do not take, do not make and do not pass defects further.



A state in which everything happens in the right place, at the right time and in the right amount.



This is the regulation of the flow of materials and finished products using a special system of signal cards. They demonstrate the need for components or finished products, which avoids losses, downtime, excess inventory. Kanban helps to perform the right tasks in the right amount and at the right time. It is used to implement the principle of “just in time”.

Where to start?

The start is from careful analysis and information. Kaizen involves each employee in the process of ongoing and continuous improvement. Ideally, employees perceive Kaizen as their own philosophy of life. Therefore, it is important to immediately find like-minded people. There will not be many of them, because of rigidity of thinking, timid people will instinctively resist, because living and working as usual is much calmer. But even a few committed employees are enough to start the process and after some period of time change the whole system.

Thanks to Kaizen an advanced leader pays for the hands, but eventually wins the minds and hearts of people.

Two is already a team, and it must work in harmony. To achieve this, you must first inform people about what is happening in the company, what are the projects, contractors, goals, strategy and the Kaizen system and its benefits in general. And here you will find information boards, corporate website, individual or team five minutes, presentations, newsletters, etc. Informing gives employees an understanding of where they are going and why. It is an opportunity to unite people according to program goals, results, analyze errors and get rid of them in time.

For more than 10 years, the company has been successfully implementing Kaizen in the production

Kaizen is a process of optimization in order to achieve a better result with less resources. The costs are often due to routine: unnecessary relocation and movements of the body, spending time looking for the needed, the same small mistakes, etc. By minimizing them with the help of these Kaizen tools, the manager or any employee frees up time for new ideas and cases.

“For example, each of our employees can dedicate 2-3 hours of working time to their favorite thing,” says Marina. – That’s why our people make their own windmill and original lamps from the remains of aluminum profiles, a program to control sun protection structures from a smartphone, develop lighting systems and even write fairy tales for teenagers! Thanks to Kaizen, people involuntarily learn to analyze their lives, form a life strategy and set goals, be mature and aware.”

Natalia Koval, MANEZH production manager

Dealing with losses involves giving up all unnecessary actions that do not contribute to the value of the product, and therefore increases the efficiency of the person and the team. That is, you need to strive only for those basic actions without which the main goal will not be achieved.

This is a conceptual change in the way of thinking from consumerism to the position “I can give more and do better”. Improving through work, a person realizes himself not just as a function, but feels involved in the results of the work of the whole team, to the overriding task. Then the meaning of people’s lives becomes more conscious, bright, full.

Although the philosophy of Kaizen emerged as a management system in production, it can and should be applied in all spheres of life.

“Thanks to Kaizen, an advanced leader pays for the hands, but in the end he wins people’s minds and hearts. This philosophy provides real tools of teamwork to each person and helps to create conditions in which she comes to work every day with inspiration and says: “I have an idea!”, – says Marina Dyachenko.

The territory of the office and production complex of MANEZH company in Cherkasy

The most interesting thing is that the philosophy of Kaizen appeared as a management system in production, but it can (and should) be applied in all spheres of life: professional, social, personal, even for housekeeping. Kaizen is suitable for people of any profession, including creative, and it is not necessary to use all its tools, but if you make some of them at least the basic part of your life, you will soon see how everything changes for the better.

If you have found a spelling error, please, notify us by selecting that text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

Add comment

E-mail is already registered on the site. Please use the Login form or enter another.

You entered an incorrect username or password

Sorry, you must be logged in to post a comment.
in the Telegram bot
Read articles. Share in social networks

Spelling error report

The following text will be sent to our editors: