Japan!

Can’t even see where the city ends. Photo by D. Ramos

Last month I took a vacation to Japan but my mind couldn’t stop enjoying and analyzing how everything is efficient. From the train stations to the restaurants, it’s amazing to be reminded what’s possible.

There’s a balance of system and culture all throughout Japan. In this photo, my wife and I are waiting our turn to take a picture with the famous torii gate at Itsukushima Shrine. Balancing tourist, locals, and even a wedding it seems like everyone has a chance to have an experience. Photo by D. Ramos

I really appreciated all the little notes and signs used to inform and make sure everyone is aware of their surroundings. Not only are people informed, but there’s some practicality to it. Check out the bar code below:

It’s all in the detail. There’s function and a little bit of fun when it comes to how bar codes are printed on this bottle of Orangina manufactured in Japan. Photo by D. Ramos

Data/Information is all around us. Its pushing for actions to be made. Take the example below:

One of the most efficient ways to order Ramen in Japan. You even get your own water to refill your cup. Photo by D. Ramos

Are you doing any summer traveling? Have you been anywhere else but the place you reside? Do you find some things done differently that you think is impossible to implement where you call home? Let’s talk story. Holler @ me.

Kaizen

It is easy for anyone to form habits influenced by his or her environment. As much as those habits take up the majority of our work day, there is an option to spend a few minutes to reflect on those processes. 

Kaizen is the Japanese business philosophy of continuous improvement of working practices and personal efficiency. Practicing this idea may be challenging but its influence can be impactful. By building a habit of actively seeking improvements, day to day activities can be improved in small increments. 

For example, Store B sells wrapping paper by the sheet. It is a delicate item. Usually, an item in a store must have a barcode to scan when it is rung up. Instead of applying a barcode on to the wrapping paper itself, the manager organized a binder with samples of wrapping paper patterns paired with a barcode at the register. As a result of this Kaizen-like idea, Store B has avoided damaging the product which means a lot of money can be saved.

Effective vs. Efficient

As effective as the manager’s idea has been, demand for improvement continued. The store realized that when it is busy it takes extra effort to thumb through the binder. Identifying that choke in the process led to creating wrapping paper order forms that a customer can fill out. Theoretically this process will eliminate thumbing through the binder by providing a list of items wanted by the customer ready to be processed.

Credit: Dilbert

The evolution of wrapping paper purchasing at Store B is a great example of how efficiency is being shaped through Kaizen. Either of the solutions were effective but mastering what happens at the stores is something that can create efficiency. Furthermore, a Kaizen idea includes who the ideas will effect. The initial idea was primarily for the ease of the employee who will be ringing up the customer and also making sure the stores’ goods are not damaged. On the next iteration the customers became part of the Kaizen, further improving the process.

If you are interested in applying Kaizen techniques, feel free to give me a holler through email (dean@deanssolutions.com).