Kaizen Approach for Improving Construction Quality process


Introduction:

The construction industry has three major aspects: Capital, Time, and Quality. Earlier construction organizations planned two elements for customer satisfaction. For example, if the client demanded completion of a project on time with high quality the expense was greater. This ideology changed as people expected good quality & timely delivery of projects on a budget. This led to the development of different methods of achieving customers satisfaction. 

One of the methods developed was the kaizen method. The definition of kaizen comes from two Japanese words: 'kai' meaning 'change' and 'Zen' meaning 'good' which combined gives the term “continuous improvement” This concept was first introduced in the 1980s by the Japanese car company, Toyota.  

Kaizen method believes in achieving quality improvement by developing habits of making small but significant changes. 

Principles of Kaizen Approach:

Below are the steps followed in Kaizen approach which is also show graphically:

  1. Improvement Potential in current quality control process
  2. Analyze the current process
  3. Brainstorm and come up with new ideas
  4. Implementation of this new ideas to improve quality control system
  5. Evaluate new method for continuous improvement 


  1. Discover improvement Potential:

It includes defining the problem and making observations on a daily basis on each and every aspect of activities. Then kaizen requires pointing to significant improvement opportunities by analyzing and comparing the quality required and hold them to higher standards.

Improvement potential can be categorized into methodology and technology. For example, the current quality system is paper-based and possess a problem of data retrieval, root cause analysis, data analysis, and accountability issue. Organization and storage of data is also a major drawback in this system. This system needs to be updated to improve the overall procedure of quality control.


  1. Analyze current methods:

Analyzing current methods in comparison to going trends in the construction industry and determine if the current method is updated to the site context. It requires the observer to organizes and categorize the current method’s drawbacks and impact. This needs to be quantified and require specific detail regarding material, method, and equipment. This helps in finding the root cause and shows various chain activities that require definite improvement. This is the most critical step in this process, and everything is depending on decisions made on this level.

Now, the current method of quality control on site does give real-time and organized data so there is the need to get real-time data on a single click. It also requires to upload data once quality control is done on site. This will require double time for same work.


  1. Generate Original Ideas:

For developing new ideas and strategies various methods are used by the kaizen method. It includes brainstorming sessions, 5 W’s 1 H, What if, Listing characteristics, Listing Faults, NHK Method, and many more. This helps in creating new ideas with healthy competition among employees and brings out creative solutions for problems. This is done with every level of the workforce to get creative solutions across the team deploying the most important resource- humans. This is very beneficial as creative yet simple solutions can even be learned from even a common worker in an organization. 

So, continuing with the above example all the data can be capture in real-time through mobile phone and which shall be connect to cloud platform to store data. This data shall be available organized data in the form of Who did the inspection? Which agency did the work? On what date this was done? Etc.

  1. Develop Implementation Plan:

For this step workflow diagrams, time cycle analysis is required. The required time for procurement, execution, and buffer required in case of a new problem is encountered are key points to be considered. Quality is defined and it is the outlined quality to be achieved. There is no compromise in this factor and requires deploying all the necessary resources for upholding the standard.

Also, the work breakdown structure requires appointing responsibilities. This responsibility needs to be assigned on basis of the potential and skills of an individual. The implementation also requires each and every member of the team to communicate properly and express concern without hesitation to authorities above them. 

The risk mitigation processes also need to be discussed and the workforce needs to be trained to handle stressful situations with an integrated mindset.

Now, the solution to this problem can be using digital tools. As every engineer and worker on-site has a smartphone, this tool can be deployed to mitigate the situation. This may also allow a smooth transition from the conventional quality control method to the digitized method. The major advantage of digitization is data is just one click away and additional features can be added to ensure that the checklist is modified according to project requirements.

Implement the plan:

It is the responsibility of major stakeholders to create a positive and safe environment for the successful implementation of the plan. Communication and upholding responsibilities are the key factors in an implementation plan. The plan needs to be carried out as per regulations provided and quality checks should be carried out regularly to check the process.

The implementation of the plan must be done on small scale first. One or two quality managers should be trained and should follow the procedure. Observation should be made based on time, quality, and accountability issues.

  1. Evaluate the new Method:

Evaluation of new method is deciding factor whether the new method is beneficial or not. It verifies every aspect of the procedure and analyses the data. Pro’s and con’s list made in order to identify the faults and new improvement potential. 

The new method can be evaluated on the basis of how much time is saved and how easy it is to retrieve data. There is also the additional advantage of organized data and real-time QC. Evaluation can also be done in terms of the workforce accepting the modifications to the system. 


The focus of the KAIZEN Method – Elimination of Waste

The above principles are deployed with one major focus of eliminating waste. Waste not only includes rework and material wastage but factors such as delay in supplies, wrong allocation of intellect, etc. There are 6 types of waste identified in the kaizen method which the construction industry can be associated:

  1. Waiting for supplies: Delay in the procurement of materials and required equipment & tools to carry out the activity.
  2. Motion: Extra physical and mental strain that doesn’t add value to the process
  3. Transportation: Moving the materials and equipment to the desired location inside the construction site.
  4. Inventory: Storage of material and equipment for next activity and 
  5. Defect: Reprocessing or rework due to technicalities and human errors. 
  6. Intellect: Wastage of valuable human resources on non-essential modifications and not appointing skilled individuals to the desired location.



Advantages of Kaizen Method

Listed below are the advantages of implementing the kaizen method in an organization:

  1. Continuous Improvement methodology.
  2. Engagement of different levels of workforce
  3. Increased Efficiency of Activities
  4. Increased workforce productivity
  5. Waste Reduction
  6. Increased profit margin
  7. Improved quality within budget

Drawbacks of Kaizen Method:

Drawbacks of the Kaizen Method are:

  1. Training needs: People in the existing organizations require new training to implement a new management approach
  2. Resistance from employees: Employees denying to shift or change values as change is unsettling.
  3. Expensive & Uncertain: Implementation of this method is hard and expensive as tools used by the method require new technologies and success depends greatly on the involvement and adaption of the workforce to the new changes.
  4. Bad Change: As results take time to reflect, people might assume that the method is not successful and is a bad change in comparison to the traditional method.

Conclusion:

The Kaizen method is a high-quality management approach that is applied widely in the construction industry. This can be only achieved if the entire workforce has a positive attitude towards the approach and maintain enthusiasm throughout the life cycle. New organizations might find it easy to adopt the kaizen approach than existing organizations with old management systems. This might take time to reach every department of the organization and reflect beneficial results. Kaizen uses a cost reduction procedure which helps in achieving quality on a budget. 


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