Making Sense of 5S, Kaizen and Kanban

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Today, we would like to discuss the three methods of Lean-Agile that has gotten the acknowledgment of many organizational leaders as first-rate models to control your production work processes, namely kaizen, kanban and 5S.
How to Get Started With Understanding all 3 of these models

In reality, part of the confusion is that these concepts are all similar in their intentions and all derive from Japanese concepts.

Kaizen assumes that constant small improvements can be found in every system, and that the sum of these ongoing improvements can ultimately lead to large gains in productivity. Kaizen is a great option for many smaller ad hoc facilities, especially those that don’t have set standards for how each process should be handled. In order to achieve the Kaizen goal of continuous improvement, the work environment must foster open communications within and across the organization. A team embracing Kaizen will empower every individual in the organization to make suggestions, in order to, for instance generate improvements within different areas of the production line

5S is used to help improve workplace organization. The 5S gets its name from the five words that are used to remind people of the different ways that a facility can become more organized. These words are Sort, Straighten, Shine, Standardize and Sustain.

Kanban was originally designed as a way to monitor assembly lines in a production environment, but the term has been broadened as a way for organizations to simply visualize their actual workflow. This begins by identifying the individual categories or lanes of your delivery system. These are shown on a Kanban board, typically as horizontal column headings. Your actual work items are split into logical pieces, each of which is an item that is written on an organizational placard. As work items flow through the delivery system these cards are subsequently moved on the Kanban board as well.

In reality all of these systems are designed to improve production efficiency on a continuous basis. However, they go about it in different ways. Kaizen, focuses on trying to achieve ad hoc improvements in different areas. 5S improvement process is designed with the idea of regularly overhauling production efficiency accordingly in areas that correlate to the 5 areas. Kanban on the other hand is designed to linearly look at the workflow in a visual way as a way of identifying wholescale ways in which the production process can be revamped, and ultimately lead to considerable production improvements. In each case, a key blind spot can be the fact that improvements are done in one phase, and never followed up, thereby potentially negating the idea of continuous improvement that each one attempts to set about in manufacturing organizations.


In production plants across the globe, lean manufacturing techniques are being used to meet increasing demands placed on manufacturers. Originally developed as a methodology to make production processes highly efficient, lean techniques have been adopted by more than 72 percent of machine shops across North America. For many of these, the techniques have helped them to dramatically increase their competitive edge, while continuing to remove wasteful practices and contribute to the bottom line. Hopefully, with a better understanding of these 3 techniques, you too can see improvements in your organization’s industrial and manufacturing efficiency.