13 June 2018

Ethiopia: Kaizen - Changing the Way Ethiopian Industries Work

Japanese translate Kaizen as continuous improvement. The philosophy has enabled, not only Japan, but also those countries that have implemented Kaizen to register remarkable achievements. Among them, producing competitive products in global market in terms of both quality and quantity, and winning their customers' expectations. In this regard, among the many global leading companies which witnessed changes, the Japanese company Toyota is one.

The Kaizen philosophy was first implemented in Toyota before it spread throughout the world. Now, it has become not only a means to success for many global companies, but also for countries as well. In the philosophy, the first 5S approaches, Sorting, Setting in order, Shining, Standardizing, Sustaining, are implemented sequen tially.

This globally approved change and reform tool has been implemented in some of Ethiopia's industries in recent years, and has brought about tangible improvements. The Kaizen Institute was established five years ago, and 38 factories selected by the Ministry of Industry are practicing it. Since the philosophy has become practical in some of Ethiopia's industries, it is enabled them to save resources and be efficient and to the tone of 2.5 billion birr.

The industries are said to be exporters, import substituting comp anies, and have high degree of inefficiency. Though irregularities are witnessed in the implementation process, but evaluating their progress, remarkable changes have been registered.

Asnake Gudissa, Kaizen Transfer and Development Director of Food and Beverage Industries with the Ethiopian Kaizen Institute Manufacturing Sector, said that since the past one year, 38 selected industries, including industries such as meat and dairy, metals and engineering, chemicals, leather and textile are implementing Kaizen.

As to him, the industries have improved efficiency and benefited a lot as a result of the implementation of this approach. "While efficiency is improved and productivity increased, waste is minimized. Concurrently, raw materials wastage and injuries in work places have reduced. Overall, favorable working environment is created where things are done in a manner that saves time and energy." Employees have become more passionate about the work they do, he added.

In the past six months alone, 13 million birr was managed to be saved from the sale of unnecessary items, and reuse of existing ones. Hence, the practical application of the philosophy is helping industries witness improvements.

For instance, from garment and textile industries, Addis Garment and Adama spinning factories, from meat and dairy factories Shola and Luna Export have witnessed constant improvements, the Director remarked.

While mentioning the challenges the industries face in the practical imple mentation of Kaizen, Asnake said that lack of support from the sides of the management have limited the successful realization of it.

The core tenet of Kaizen is not securing money. Rather, it focuses on establishing a culture of continuous change and improvement within institutions. Thus, institutions should strive hard to realize quality and quantity and create conducive work environment to yield continuous change, instead of contented with insignificant successes they may achieve, Asnake remarked. Especially to realize Kaizen effectively, the management and employees should work hand in glove, he furthered.

According to Asnake, in Kaizen, it is always pivotal to sustain quality and increase employees' motivation and customers' satisfaction by minimizing hustles and bustles that causes waste and costs.

For instance, at work place, if work materials are kept here and there in disorganized manner, production time would be lost as it takes time to identify them easily. On the contrary, if they are kept in accordance to the Kaizen's standard (based on their type, importance and order) efficiency improves, waste reduces, production, increases and it saves time and resources.

As to the Director, Kaizen is about continuous improvement, and it is not just a one-time fashion. The proper practical applications of it are great. Therefore, Industries should implement the basic principles persistently to survive, be effective, and competitive globally. Thus, it is vital to provide the required support and follow-up for industries and employees. Equally, it is important to design a mechanism for companies to evaluate the system and give recognition for best performers.

Sharing Asnake's idea, Kaizen Office Coordinator at Adama Spinning Factory Yehualaeshet Tsegaye said that Kaizen has multifaceted advantages for industries. For instance, since his factory started implementing Kaizen, it has enabled him to secure items that were exposed to wastage, but valued hundred thousand birr within a six month time.

The philosophy when applied properly can set significant change in factories' productivity and product quality. It is possible to have well organized workplace, and thereby waste would be minimized, efficiency will soar, and customers' satisfaction increases.

Industry State Minister Ayana Zewdie for his part said Kaizen has greater contribution for most of Asian countries' growth. The philosophy has also created successful industries that are capable enough to produce compe titive products in the international market.

"What is more, it has assisted them to develop strong work culture. Thus, Ethiopian industries need to follow this path to produce quality products and have competitive success in the world market place." To this effect, the government is committed to provide the necessary support for industries, the State Minister underscored.

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