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Two Types of Kaizen

By Ron Pereira Updated on January 22nd, 2015

iStock_000032641854XLargeThe word kaizen is fast becoming a buzz word galore.  You will hear about how people are “doing kaizen” or running a big “kaizen event” next week.

Many times folks are in fact executing kaizen’s in an attempt to make things better and I applaud them.In addition to the infamous “kaizen mind set” there are at least two, possibly more, types of kaizen events I am aware of: point kaizen and system kaizen.

Let’s discuss them.

Point Kaizen

From my experience the most common type of kaizen practiced is called point kaizen. These kaizen events typically come about as the plant manager is walking through the shop (a great thing by the way) and notices a mess in cell 4.

So he or she finds the supervisor of the cell and discusses it. The supervisor gets the hint and launches an immediate 5S kaizen event in the area.

Great stuff to be sure… but we must be careful lest point kaizen consumes us and we lose focus on the entire system.

System Kaizen

System kaizen, in contrast to point kaizen, comes about when this same plant manager realizes that their flagship product line is suffering from a growing past due backlog, too much inventory, and overall poor morale from the folks adding value to the product.

With this in mind, he or she works with the team in developing both a current state value stream map and then a future state value stream map.  This future state value stream map is a view of how the team wishes to see things working in a pre-determined time frame (e.g. 3 months, 6 months, etc.).

Things like tidying things up via 5S, creating model cells, and implementing WIP and finished good supermarkets may be some of the things needed in order to reach this future state.

System Kaizen Leads to Point Kaizen

What the team soon realizes is that the 2 day value stream mapping “system kaizen” exercise lead to the identification of multiple “point kaizen” events.  And once these point kaizen events are successfully complete the team should be much closer to their future state vision.

So, while point kaizen is never bad, I feel it extremely important to mention the need to first look at things from a “system” perspective before worrying about things on a “point” perspective.

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  1. Rick Foreman

    October 29, 2007 - 10:16 am

    Good post. I can really see two sides of the fence on this. My past experience depends upon the particular group you may be working with. Recent experience has shown that without the “point” kaizens on the shop floor, to train and coach the people on what to see, the culture is not changed thoroughly enough for them to identify the system kaizens. With some of the best suggestions coming from the floor, I’ve seen that the “point” kaizens lead to sustaining a change and then impacting the system. Yet, in our office environment it is somewhat reversed as the mapping exercises definitely open the eyes to the many “point” kaizens that can be approached immediately. At the end of the day, the real question will rest upon how much waste has been kaizened out of the entire organization.

  2. Ron Pereira

    October 29, 2007 - 11:51 am

    Well said Rick. Thanks for the comment.

  3. JWDT

    February 29, 2008 - 8:09 pm


    Good explanation of kaizen ‘blitz’ types. I believe a lot of people get ‘blitz week’ kaizen (whether point or system) confused with the underlying term or larger view of Kaizen (i.e. change for the good). Could you do an article between the difference?

  4. Ron Pereira

    February 29, 2008 - 8:43 pm

    Sure thing JWDT. Thanks for the idea!

  5. Chris Akins

    March 1, 2008 - 6:21 pm


    I have run across the point kaizen mentality in companies both large and small. Although I believe these add value when run properly and with the larger process in mind, I have often seen these run as a “knee jerk” reaction to a one time issue, or to keep “egg off face” when a senior manager notices a potential problem (or even just asks a genuine question). In some of these instances “fixing” the problem may create more problems in different parts of the process, or may fail to address the root cause of a failure if too focused on any single part of a process.

    For instance, I was recently asked to do an RCA and conduct a kaizen to address a one time shortage of a critical purchased component that “stopped production.” It was clear that although I was asked to conduct the RCA, the bosses had already concluded (without any data) that the buyer responsible for the part failed in some part of his job. There was no consideration given to the larger process, and the roles that finance, engineering, and production played in the shortage. Long story short the direction was to ignore those elements and focus on “fixing” the ordering process. Interestingly enough the RCA showed that the supplier had placed the company on credit hold for past due payments, without informing the buyer. Indeed, finance never informed the buyer that they were paying late. Conducting a point kaizen on the ordering process was both fruitless and waste of time in this instance. (Maybe Ill post a case study on my blog – when UBD finishes the programming – about this…)

    I am a believer in total systems integration, so I am always a bit wary of point kaizens unless sufficient research is conducted prior to or during the event to truly understand what needs addressing and how potential solutions impact other functions within the organization or processes along the line.

    Great post. I’m glad you distinguished between the two types.


  6. Ron Pereira

    March 2, 2008 - 3:18 pm

    Thanks for your excellent insight Chris. I really appreciate it.

  7. Tim Goodman

    April 11, 2008 - 7:55 am

    Greetings. I am a Quality Technician at Acumed, a medical device manufacturer. We have numerous point style Kaizen events, but we seem unable or unwilling to see the larger system. Thus many of our lean gains deteriorate six months later. Thanks for the post. Tim

  8. KC Harris

    December 1, 2008 - 4:23 pm

    Point kaizens and System kaizens are not good or bad. They are just tools for improvment. Great improvement can be made by diving into the root cause of a point kaizen. I could walk out to the production floor, see inventory stacked on the floor, and demand a larger rack be built. This would create activity and improve the rack, but it would skirt the systemic issue. The root cause could be a number of things including late or early delivery, machine downtime, poor planning, not following one-piece flow, etc. It is not enough to create a visual workplace; the visual indicators must be catylsts for action to improve.

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