When it comes to how to implement Kaizen in an organization, manufacturing floor, warehouse, or other industrial facilities, the steps in the PDCA cycle—plan, do, check, act—are a good starting point. Pair the PCDA steps with our three tips for Kaizen success to initiate changes targeting overall warehouse performance and efficiency. We’ve highlighted some specific examples throughout, but the process works regardless of your facility’s needs or specific goals.

Icons to demonstrate each step of the PCDA cycle

1) Make a Plan

The planning phase is the first step in the PDCA method, and with good reason: You can’t make changes that may affect safety without first looking at possible methods and any negative implications. When planning process or other updates, look at the bigger picture to decide what changes can help meet facility or department goals.

Change can improve a facility, so there’s no reason to continue using an outdated process if there’s proof of a better option. Just because it’s been done a certain way for so long, doesn’t mean it’s the most efficient or best way. A facility can make significant improvements within a warehouse setting by making small, targeted changes—which is the basis of the Kaizen method.

To make your Kaizen plan, look for clues as to what updates may provide sufficient return. We’ll use one example throughout to demonstrate how to implement Kaizen to meet specific goals.

How to Make a Kaizen Plan

First, consider the problem at hand. For example, reports note that pallets are regularly damaged in the warehouse. Inspection revealed that existing pallets are in good, usable condition with no damage of note prior to use; the damage seems to occur in the warehouse.

To determine the cause, you may inspect the type of damage and find that it is mainly to the edges and corners of the pallets. This may lead you to believe that the damage is potentially caused by pallets not being aligned properly. If the rows and aisles are too narrow, it may be that regular forklift impact is damaging the pallets.

Create your Kaizen plan: A first step may be to use adhesive-backed floor markers to mark the corners and edges, to improve pallet alignment and bring attention to the edges, hopefully reducing forklift impact overall. The first step is to implement on a small scale (the “Do” step of PDCA), limiting to one area to compare results against the “norm.”

2) Track Progress

Keeping an eye on the issue after implementing your potential fix is an important step. Without watching for progress—or noting new issues or a lack of improvement—it’s difficult to tell if the updates are working. Tracking progress post-implementation is an important step in Kaizen, and without it, you lack the data to move on to any next steps. So, follow up by evaluating after initial changes are made, keeping an eye out for any issues in implementation or problems that were overlooked in the planning phase. This step can take weeks to months, depending on specific goals set. It’s about continuous improvement, not getting it right on the first try.

Evaluate Kaizen Implementation Success

When looking at the pallet example, the next step is to determine if the approach was successful: Have the pallets shown less damage since implementing the floor marker solution? If yes, this is good news—continue to evaluate and watch how the fix works over a longer period of time. If no, evaluate again and look for clues about what may be going wrong. One of these pallet damage prevention tactics may be the answer, instead:

  • Perhaps the issue comes down to forklift drivers: Is re-training necessary?
  • Are aisles too narrow for proper forklift swing? A bigger reorganization project may be necessary.
  • Is the pallet too small for the load, leading to breakage? Packing and loading standards may need to be addressed.
  • If storage is not adequate, pallets may be weakened or damaged. Is the storage area dry, are pallets stacked or racked properly, and are they being handled correctly?
  • If pallet quality is the problem, is it time to speak with quality control, or even consider a new supplier?

3) Course Correction

Continuous improvement is an important part of the Kaizen method. After tracking progress, it’s time to make adjustments to properly address any remaining concerns—then implement the new changes and track again. This process doesn’t have to be a lonely one: Rely on teamwork for problem-solving, get feedback from all levels before, during, and after the process, and consider an all-hands-on-deck kaizen event to target needs, make changes, and evaluate success.

Adjust, and Keep Improving

Using our pallet example, if in compliance with OSHA and other facility safety requirements, you may choose to address training next. This may include everything from the management team to forklift drivers, warehouse staff, and manufacturing teams.

Training options that may be relevant include:

  • Annual refresher training for all staff who pack, transport, or load pallets
  • Updated certifications for forklift operators
  • A Kaizen event focused on multiple areas of training, related to warehouse skills and beyond
  • Collect feedback from employees regarding areas where they would appreciate further training in order to support their position
  • Work to streamline onboarding and introductory training to support efforts to reduce pallet damage

Continuous improvement allows facilities to make incremental changes to target specific safety, production, or warehousing needs. Plan, track, and adjust as needed to develop processes and standards that work for your facility. For more information about improving safety with visual cues, explore our Resource Center.