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2017 New Year Resolution: Start with a Lean Kitchen Kaizen Event

  • Jan 01, 2017 |

    Why not start your New Year Resolution with a Lean Kitchen Event?

    How often do you find yourself searching for an item you thought you left one place, only to find it in another? How many times have you gone to pour a bowl of cereal in the wee hours of the morning, only to find an empty cupboard and a dishwasher full of dirty dishes? Ever gone to make a sandwich and realize you just laid your bread onto a dirty counter? Chances are, these scenarios are all too familiar to your kitchen. Why not start your New Year Resolution with a Lean Kitchen Event?

    You don’t have to be a Kaizen expert to understand its ideology and the benefits it can have on your daily routines. Kaizen is a way of life for a growing group of individuals. Its principles are quickly spreading out of the manufacturing plants that made it popular and into all facets of our life, including your kitchen.

    The Japanese philosophy that originally comes from Japanese culture and Japanese practice of management focuses on quality that is the aim of daily life. A quality allows for gradual and continuous improvement, while in pursuit of perfection.

    Or in other words:

    • Kai = change
    • Zen = better

    If there’s one place in a home that could always use continuous improvement, it’s definitely the kitchen. The kitchen has become the focal point of homes. It’s now a gathering point and social area when friends come to visit. So if you haven’t already, maybe it’s time to look at some methods to improve your kitchen through the Kaizen way.

    Get the most out of your kitchen

    Understanding the Kaizen cycle is the first step towards transforming your scrambled kitchen into a lean, mean, Kaizen machine.

    The PCDA of Kaizen:

    • PLAN: Determine the objectives your tasks face. Identify the barriers and opportunities that are available. Once you have identified them accordingly, develop actions to overcome the barriers and take advantage of the opportunities.
    • DO: Implement the action plans you have established.
    • CHECK: Review the progress of the action plans and determine whether or not they were beneficial to improving the process. Look for deviations in the plan that would improve the process. When first implementing, this is a good time to take notes and reflect on your process.
    • ACT: Determine where to apply changes that will include improvement of the process or product and implement them into the plan accordingly. Information from CHECK is essential to the ACT step.

    Kaizen in the kitchen

    Embedding the PCDA into your kitchen routines is learning process that will take a bit of effort on your part. But the end result is worth effort, leading you to a more productive and efficient kitchen.

    To begin your Kaizen transformation, take a basic meal that you once thought was a simple, meaningless task and apply the PCDA cycle. Ask yourself the following 5 simple, but important questions next time you prepare a meal.

    1. Are all the items you need for your preparation clean and in an organized, convenient location to your prep area?
    2. Were all the ingredients labeled and in convenient locations to your prep area? 
    3. Were they expired or close to expiration date?
    4. Were there things you could’ve prepared prior to them being needed?
    5. What will you do with your down time in-between tasks? Anything that can be productive towards your goal within your downtime is extremely important to your Kaizen kitchen (e.g. doing dishes, cleaning messes, prepping for later steps).
    6. What could you have done differently to improve any of the steps along the way?

    Toolbox for a Lean Kitchen Kaizen Event


    The 5S is a workplace organization technique composed for five primary phases: Sort, Set In Order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain.

    1. Sort – Keep only necessary items in the workplace.
    2. Set In Order – Arrange items to promote efficient work flow.
    3. Shine – Clean the work area so it is neat and tidy.
    4. Standardize – Set standards for a consistently organized workplace.
    5. Sustain – Maintain and review standards.

    8 Wastes

    1. Defects – Products or services that are out of specification that require resources to correct;
    2. Overproduction – Producing too much of a product before it is ready to be sold;
    3. Waiting for the previous step in the process to complete;
    4. Stakeholders are not effectively engaged in the process;
    5. Transportation – Transporting items or information that is not required to perform the process from one location to another;
    6. Inventory or information that is sitting idle (not being processed);
    7. Motion – People, information or equipment making unnecessary motion due to workspace layout, ergonomic issues or  searching for misplaced items;
    8. Extra Processing – Performing any activity that is not necessary to produce a functioning product or service.


    Kanban (literally signboard or billboard in Japanese) is a scheduling system for lean and just-in-time (JIT) production. Kanban is a system to control the logistical chain from a production point of view, and is not an inventory control system. Kanban was developed by Taiichi Ohno, at Toyota, as a system to improve and maintain a high level of production.


    Poka-yoke is a Japanese term that means “mistake-proofing”. A poka-yoke is any mechanism in a Lean Manufacturing process that helps an equipment operator avoid (yokeru) mistakes (poka). Its purpose is to eliminate product defects by preventing, correcting, or drawing attention to human errors as they occur. The concept was formalized, and the term adopted, by Shigeo Shingo as part of the Toyota Production System. It was originally described as baka-yoke, but as this means “fool-proofing” (or “idiot-proofing”) the name was changed to the milder poka-yoke.

    Shadow Board

    Shadow Boards are visual methods of storing tools or materials and are always placed where the work is being done. Each shadow board consists of outlines or “shadows” in the shape of individual items to make it obvious where each should be put away. The shadow board accomplishes two essential goals of the visual workplace at once – it provides guidance for where to store things while at the same time making it obvious when a tool or item is missing.

    Visual Management Checklist

    It is a guide to your visual management efforts. The Checklist helps you determine if you’ve paid attention to the Four Basic Principles; make it Simple, Big, Visible and Changeable. And it ensures you’ve applied all the standard tips and tricks to create a truly visual process.

    Achieve your New Year Resolution in 2017

    No matter where or how you apply it, Kaizen is not an overnight transformation. It takes mental and physical changes that require constant analysis and improvement.

    To get the best out of yourself and your Kaizen kitchen, remember that it is a method of continuous improvement. A method can be conquered by taking small steps along the way, while reflecting and adjusting as you go.

    Making drastic changes here and there are a quick way to see short term improvements, but for a long term sustainable Kaizen transformation, the key is the little things you do to improve – everyday in 2017.

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    Engineering - General, Engineering - Industrial & Manufacturing