Kaikaku is one of these Japanese words which found their way into the Lean lingo. Kaikaku is usually translated into “radical change” or breakthrough.
my tiny Japanese dictionary proposes “reform”, “renovation” and “reorganization”.
“Doing” kaikaku means introducing a major change in a process in order to drastically improve it (quantum leap). Kaikaku is therefore “opposed” to Kaizen, which is incremental, small steps, improvement.
Kaizen is often praised for being a safe and low-cost improvement way. By changing only one thing at a time and trying allows to observe the effect of the change and to learn from this experience.
Kaikaku will discard much if not all from the existing solution and introduce big change(s). The usual set of parameters and previous accumulated learning may not be useful anymore. The new process is likely to be unstable until all new influencing parameters are fully understood and under control. Therefore Kaikaku is feared as risky.
Yet Kaikaku is not all bad. Once Kaizen has given all that can be reasonably achieved (timely and in terms of Return Of Investment), a radical change may be the only option to improve further.
Kaikaku is often understood as innovation, bringing in some high-tech or top-notch technology.
Indeed, if a manufacturer changes his production way from cutting away material to additive manufacturing (3D printing to make it simple), it is a disruption and potentially a quantum leap in productivity, efficiency, lead time, customizing, etc.
Kaikaku can be more mundane than that, like reorganising the way of operating for instance.
I remember working for Yamaha music, assembling home cinema receivers and CD players, when we heard the headquarter was planning a switch from long linear conveyor belt assembly lines into small autonomous cells, it was kaikaku because it was disrupting decades of streamlined production.
Many Kaizen events (also called kaizen blitz) are in fact small kaikakus where drastic changes are made in short time. Those events are not the best way for try-and-learn, it’s more often one expert moderating a workgroup and leading it to a disruptive solution, hence kaikaku.
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