On Kaizen Events and Other Oxymorons

June 5, 2009

Yesterday, we aired a webcast on Lean Six Sigma in pharma. Click here to view. 

Yesterday, we aired a webcast on Lean Six Sigma in pharma. Click here to view. 

One of the best comments of the session came from poka yoke consultant Martin Hinckley who touched on the concept of the "kaizen event" and how little sense that term makes, since kaizen is supposed to be a way of life, a process embedded in the very life and fabric of the plant. How can one reduce that to an event?

Also participating was Jason Kamm, principal consultant with Tunnell, who discussed case study results, and Thomas Gronauer, who is on the University of St. Gallen team led by Thomas Friedli, which is studying the way that drug companies approach operational excellence.  It's a sweeping survey, a la Macher and Nickerson, and your participation might help you improve your practices, AND help the industry improve too. You have until July 15 to register for this next survey, at a cost of about $2000 per facility (more information below), which means you'd receive your first report in September.

Audience polled found that competing projects were a major problem, half of the respondents said their companies were focusing on Lean, with the other half on Six Sigma (rather than using both equally).

Clearly, Lean practitioners need to refine what Op Ex means in the new economy. As Lean guru Jim Womack recently noted, with GM's bankruptcy and the symbolic fall of the U.S. automotive  industry, the Lean movement is in a state of reflection.  GM, he says, had failed to learn much from its NUMMI venture with Toyota, but was getting the hang of Lean just as the economy soured.  As he wrote in his recent newsletter commentary, "End of an Era, "We in the Lean Community find ourselves in the odd position of winning a battle of ideas without actually getting most believers to fully practice their new convictions..." (recognize anyone?)

"...Even as this drama plays out within manufacturing, Lean ideas are spreading rapidly to new fields....yet we have not fully defined what Lean means in these areas, much less how to implement and sustain it.  So it is...a time for modesty and self-reflection, hansei, if you will, as we all struggle with the economic crisis while trying to redefine our own purpose as a Lean Community for the new era head..."

The first question in Q&A addressed Lean Six Sigma in drug R&D.


But now for a public service commercial from Switzerland...I see that it costs to take part in the survey, but the information given seems potentially very valuable....here's the 411 on the St Gallen pharma op ex research.

Their research aims to answer the following questions:

» What does it need to be a Top Performer in terms of Operational Excellence?

» What has changed since previous surveys?

» Which principles of Operational Excellence are currently implemented?

  • Just-In-Time
  •  Total Quality Management / Six Sigma
  • Total Productive Maintenance
  • Effective Management System
  • What is the future role of manufacturing in the pharmaceutical industry?
  • What are the implications for pharmaceutical manufacturing?
  • How should pharmaceutical manufacturing respond to the changing environment?

Participants receive:

  • a Performance Rating of your site against Top Performers as well as the industry level including major Key Performance Indicators to help you find out where improvement projects are most urgent
  • an Implementation Rating of your site against Top Performer as well as the industry level including basic principles of TPM, TQM and JIT
  • the knowledge of Best Practice in your industry to help you to identify your own room for improvement
  • Detection of Existing and Future Trends in pharmaceutical operations
  • Multiple sites Rating within your company network
  • Comparison between regions (India, Europe, China, Puerto Rico, US, …)

 As well as the following:

• a personalized site report focusing on your

relative KPI performance, your strengths and

weaknesses concerning TPM, TQM, JIT and

your management system

• an analysis of site-related factors

"OPEX @ My Site"

• an industry report that shows which pattern Top

Performers have in common

• a depiction of practices that are really driving

Operational Excellence within pharmaceutical

companies via OPEX @ Pharmaceutical


• a developemet report for those companies that

participated in more than one OPEX survey

• an insights in yours and the industry's

developement OPEX Developement"

•The book "Operational Excellence in the

Pharmaceutical Industry" by Prof Dr. Thomas

Friedli et al. that provides a detailed overview of

the results and shows the different key issues of

setting up an improvement program for

operational excellence

About the Author

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