As per the Japanese Human Relations Association (1997a), the implementation of Japanese Kaizen (Figure 2.12) includes two different improvement practices and is driven by a simple four-step (PDCA) method: (1) the identification of problems; (2) the
development of good solutions; (3) the implementation of those solutions; and (4) the standardisation of the improved results and prepare for future improvement (Recht and Wilderom, 1998; Masaki, 2006; Kupanhy, 2007; Toshiko and Shook, 2007).
The two practices are Quality Control Circle programmes (QCCs, group-based improvement programmes, QC (Ishikawa, 1980; Crocker et al., 1984;Ishikawa, 1985a; Suzaki, 1993) and Teians (Japanese for personal improvement suggestions/proposals,)(Yasuda, 1989; Nihon HR Ky?kai, 1995). These both can be applied to utilise improvement ideas (Marin-Garcia et al., 2008) for identifying, investigating, analysing and solving work-related problems (Kono,1982; Charantimath, 2003).
The differences between the two improvement practices
Taking into consideration the previous researches, the approach adopted for implementing these two practices are clearly different in many ways. QCCs (or just QCs) constitutes group-based activities that include a small number of volunteer employees. The group is small enough to allow face-to-face communication (Lillrank and Kano, 1989), i.e., between 5 to 15 members (Ma et al., 2010). They meet at regular interval (e.g., once per week) (Greenbaum et al., 1988; Lillrank and Kano, 1989; Sillince et al., 1996; Bacdayan, 2001) to exchange ideas and expertise for improvement (e.g., quality or costs of manufacturing, and health and safety of shop floor) (Terziovski and Sohal, 2000; Charantimath, 2003, pp., p293). They are highly dependent on cross-functional teams (Bessant et al., 1994), support from production line supervisors and top management (Prado, 2001; Milakovich, 2006) with focus on group decisions to develop improvement themes with specific and measurable goals (Landsbergis and Cahill, 1999; Doolen et al., 2008). In contrast, Teians offer a procedure for collecting and evaluating individual personal suggestions (Akaoka, 1983; Neagoe and Marascu_Klein, 2009). They are dependent on individuals’ willingness to make implementable (hands-on) improvement ideas (van Dijk and van Den Ende, 2002) which also includes the completion of a Teian sheets (i.e., paper-based or electronic, Japan Human Relations Association, 1997a; Schuring and Luijten, 2001).
Figure 2.13 A QC story by Honda Motor Europe (1998, p14-15)
Figure 2.14 An example of a Teian Sheet from one of the case company archives
QCCs conceptualize improvement plans that are approved by management. They must follow an implementation procedure or standardised pattern approach (i.e., QC story or QCC guide book) (Figure 2.13) (Akaoka, 1983; Inoue, 1985; Ho, 1999, pp., p161; Farris, 2006). In contrast, Teians collect personal improvement sheets which relate to previously implemented solutions and outcomes (Figure 2.14) (Akaoka, 1983; Nihon HR Ky?kai, 1995). Although both QCCs and Teians can be considered for producing work-related improvements, they have separate scales. QCCs are formal improvement bodies (Lillrank and Kano, 1989) and primarily implement improvement on a department- wide/ company-wide basis (Inoue, 1985; Terziovski and Sohal, 2000; Harrington, 2006), as these changes are embeded in the company’s long-term total quality control activities (Ishikawa, 1990; Charantimath, 2003). Quite a few of the QCC themes are designed for problem solving (i.e., improving the quality of goods), others are expected to make innovative changes to shop floor/workplaces on a continuous basis (i.e., to introduce new machinery or manufacturing techniques to increase productivity) (Ishikawa, 1990; Milakovich, 2006). In contrast, Teians are intended to resolve local problems within the proposers’ immediate working area on production shop floor (Nihon HR Ky?kai, 1995, pp., p5). Almost all of these problems are small-scale and thus any improvement made is simple (Marin-Garcia et al., 2008) and primarily based on hands-on knowledge (Yasuda, 1989).
Figure 2.15 Ishikawa’s 7 QC Tools, adopted from Pescod (1994, p12)
Thus, the different degrees of change, require different knowledge and skills for implementation. For the group-based QCCs it is a pre-requisite for the members to have a good knowledge of improvement (Toshiko and Shook, 2007) and use Ishikawa’s QC statistical tools (Figure 2.15) for the creation of the improvement themes (Ishikawa, 1980; JUSE, 2010), whereas, Teians are very much dependent on participants’ shop floor experience and production skills.
QCCs and Teians differ in their implementation time-frames as well. Although the implementation follows Deming’s PDCA cycle continuously (Figure 2.16), most of the QCC projects have well defined time limits (Harrington, 2006, pp., p14). They have pre-set targets and expected outcomes (Ishikawa, 1990; Terziovski and Sohal, 2000), and aim to be finished within predetermined duration (Kerrin and Oliver, 2002; Rapp and Eklund, 2002); e.g, 6 months, or no more than a year (Honda Motor, 1998), as a new QCC project will probably need to be started afterwards (Ma et al., 2010). However, the end result of a QCC is not an actual improvement, but an action plan for change which is then presented before management for approval (Crocker et al., 1984; Cohen and Bailey, 1997). The Teians, in contrast to QCCs, are generally applied immediately to make gradual changes and only after implementation the change, the details are recorded for evaluation. Each of the changes may be small, but they can be exceptionally well managed (Rapp and Eklund, 2002) and implemented on a continuous basis (Nihon HR Ky?kai, 1995).
Figure 2.16 Team-based improvement (e.g., QCC) implementation follows Deming’s PDCA cycle continuously (Wood and Munshi, 1991, p220)
QCCs and Teians use different reward methodologies to motivate participation (Recht and Wilderom, 1998; Kerrin and Oliver, 2002; Milakovich, 2006) (Table 2.3), and are evaluated differently by a committee of mangers (Yasuda, 1989; Frese et al., 1999). In contrast, rewards for Teians are based on improvement participation (Nihon HR Ky?kai, 1995; Fairbank and Williams, 2001). A Teian suggestion is based upon improvements that record what has been done on the proposers’ (Imai, 1986; Tamura, 2006) “immediate work area” (Nihon HR Ky?kai, 1995, p5). Hence, the emphasis of Teians should be on “proposing ideas that the shop floor workers could implement themselves”, not just “suggesting for improvement” (Nihon HR Ky?kai, 1995, p18), as “Kaizen Teians is doing, not proposing suggestions” (Laraia et al., 1999, p6). In this sense, recognitions and rewards for Teians are given to motivate participation (Bessant and Francis, 1999). A few Teians may have bigger rewards, but the majority are given at a fixed-rate to the individual proposer (Japan Human Relations Association, 1997a; Milakovich, 2006). In contrast, although the voluntary participation in QCCs is also critical (Crocker et al., 1984), rewards are not directly offered to the meetings but based on the utility of the end outcomes (Ma, 2008; Marin-Garcia et al., 2008; Ma et al., 2010). The objective of QCCs is to make comparatively larger changes which are based on specified improvement goals (i.e. themes) (Ishikawa, 1990; Milakovich, 2006). Thus, the actual improvement outcomes are compared against the specified goals (Lillrank and Kano, 1989), with rewards given to only the accepted themes (Recht and Wilderom, 1998), and based on the improvement achieved (Allen and Kilmann, 2001). Rewards for QCCs are given to the group (Kerrin and Oliver, 2002), rather than to individuals (Crocker et al., 1984).
Results Improvement outcomes Participation
Objects Group Individuals
Forms Monetary and non-monetary reward Fixed-rate money reward
Table 2.3 Differences between the rewards given to QCCs and Teians, concluded from Milakovich (2006), Yasuda (1989), Lillrank and Kano (1989) and Ma et al. (2010)
On the basis of above comparisons, these two types of improvement practices have different modes of conduct and could result in different outcomes. The improvements made by QCCs could result in surprising and innovative changes. These are implemented with clear and measurable department/company-wide improvement targets and are usually implemented on a one-off basis. On the other hand, the improvements made by Teians are always small. They are concerned with proposers’ immediate surrounding area, and are expected to be implemented continuously.
The Different Perspectives on the Relationship between the Two Improvement Practices
Although the different features of the two improvement practices have been clearly delineated, their roles in supporting long-term improvement outcomes remain hazy. At least, four perspectives of the significance of the two practices have been identified in previous studies. They are discussed in the following sections.
Shingo’s perspective on continuous improvement
According to Shingo (1987; 1988), the main difference between the two improvement practices is one of orientation. From Shingo’s point of view, the Japanese Kaizen is not simply a type of improvement with non-stop effort but also it places an emphasis on the idea of better processes to gain better results.
As Shingo perceived, the different emphases come from the differences in defining the manufacturing processes. As per the Association for Operations Management, manufacturing may be defined as “a process involved in converting inputs into finished goods” (APICS Dictionary 9th Edition, 1998, p75). Such a process could consist of more than one sub-processes (e.g., linear, parallel, coupled sub-processes, etc.), and each sub-process can have its own output (Koskela, 1992). In this context, an improvement can be made either on the larger process or on each smaller individual sub-process, since the size of the unit of analysis is the only difference between these (Shingo and Bodek, 1988). As an outcomet of this, improvement activities could have been focused more on the sub-processes (Liker and Hoseus, 2008). This is due to the reason that the outputs of each sub-process’ improvement could be seen more easily than that of the overall process improvement (Liker, 2004).
Shingo was critical of this type of improvement activity in many of his studies (e.g., Shingo and Bodek, 1988; Shingo, 1990; Shingo, 1992). He articulated with a different interpretation of the composition of a production system: “production activities may best be understood as networks of processes and operations not sub-processes” (Shingo, 1987, p7). A process is “the flow of products from one worker or machine to another, that is, the stages through which raw materials gradually passes through to become finished products” (Figure 2.17); an operation is “the discrete stage at which a worker may work on different products” (Shingo and Bodek, 1988, p5). This objective observation has viewed materials as the objects of the work which determine the process. The shop floor workers are the subjects of the work that decide the operations. By this reasoning, the process may be viewed as the individual machining procedure related to the flow of materials, whereas the operation could be identified in terms of local working methods, used by workers on one machine or many machines. Thus, the improvement of operations may generate local results, but may not necessarily lead to holistic process improvement, since a process is not a collection of operations; rather they lie along intersecting axes (Shingo, 1989; Shingo, 1990; Shingo, 1992).