Gemba Kaizen

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This article explains the concept of Gemba Kaizen. After reading you will understand this Japanese company philosophy and the underlying factors for successful quality management.

What is Gemba Kaizen?

Gemba Kaizen is Japanese for continuous improvement and is about the approach to arrive at productivity improvement within an organization. It is the Japanese company philosophy which aims at the continuous improvement of employment, production and efficiency. Kaizen is often combined with Gemba, the Japanese technique to optimize the workplace.

Gemba Kaizen, it’s origin

Gemba Kaizen originates from the application of the work of various experts such as Masaaki Imai, Frederick Taylor, Frank Bunker Gilbreth, Walter Shewhart.

Furthermore, it arose from a cooperation programme of the United States Department of War with the established industries after the Second World War. This method targets the continuous development of quality techniques. By improving quality cost can be reduced. But Gemba Kaizen covers a broader area.

Principles and objectives of Gemba Kaizen

In order to arrive at improvement, this continuous improvement method has set a number of principles and objectives that can be used for any organization:

Total Quality Management (TQM)

Total Quality Management (TQM) is all about reducing and eliminating waste, also called “Muda’s” (activities that do not add value but lead to costs being incurred.

Just In Time (JIT)

With such deliveries organization can economize on stock-carrying costs. Read more about Just In Time (JIT).

Total Productive Maintenance (TPM)

Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) is all about standardization of production because of which complicated and expensive processes can be avoided.

Zero Defects (ZD)

Zero Defects (ZD): Optimization of quality because of which cost savings can be realized. The focus of attention is on preventing errors and on adapting the quality to the requirements of the customer.


This philosophy is a daily activity that is part of the company philosophy. The objective is about more than improvements alone. Kaizen, in combination with Gemba, aims at improving the workplace too such as for instance office units and production floors. Because of a good atmosphere and a pleasant (working) environment, people will work more effectively and efficiently.


This method is not always applied in the right way, which sometimes results in dismissals. In Japanese this process is called “Kaiaku” (change for the worse). Dismissal is absolutely not an objective of Gemba Kaizen. On the contrary, this continuous improvement method should be carried out with respect for the people on the shop floor. The employees are especially the driving force behind the continuous improvements within an organization. Hierarchy is not important in this. In Gemba Kaizen, employees from all levels of the organization are involved. If necessary, even external stakeholders could be involved in this philosophy.

It’s Your Turn

What do you think? Is Gemba Kaizen applicable in today’s modern businesses? Do you recognize the practical explanation or do you have more additions? What are your success factors for good quality management?

Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.

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More information

  1. Imai, M. (2012). Gemba Kaizen: A Common sense Approach to a Continuous Improvement Strategy. McGraw-Hill.
  2. Imai, M. (1997). Gemba Kaizen: A Commonsense, Low-Cost Approach to Management. McGraw-Hill.
  3. Manuel F. Suárez-Barraza, Juan Ramis-Pujol, Mariana Estrada-Robles, (2012). Applying Gemba-Kaizen in a multinational food company: a process innovation framework. International Journal of Quality and Service Sciences, Vol. 4 Iss: 1, pp.27 – 50.

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Vincent van Vliet
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Vincent van Vliet is co-founder and responsible for the content and release management. Together with the team Vincent sets the strategy and manages the content planning, go-to-market, customer experience and corporate development aspects of the company.

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