Ben Nash, Co-Owner, Apex Spring & Stamping
In 1986 Japanese consultant and author Masaaki Imai, introduced the term Kaizen to the western world through his book ‘Kaizen: The Key to Japan’s Competitive Success’. Today Kaizen, which means improvement, is recognized as a systematic approach for business improvement and is regarded as an important pillar of an organization’s long-term strategy.
While the concept of continuous improvement is simple, implementing it within an organization requires commitment, discipline, and resolve for it to be successful.
At Apex, we view continuous improvement as an opportunity to improve every process by focusing on enhancing the activities that generate the most value for our customers while removing as much waste as possible.
Several years ago we recognized that in order for us to provide the best value to our customers we needed to be intentional about improvement. So we got to work on developing a formalized continuous improvement program. In order for our program to be successful we focused on three key areas.
First is that the program needed to be driven by the employees. Apex is great because we have great people. No one knows their job better than they do and it was crucial the program captured and implemented those ideas. Second, in order for the employees to participate we needed to communicate the WHY behind it.
We needed the entire company to understand that our success now and in the future is predicated by our ability to continue to evolve and grow. We want to encourage people to question everything and to push each other to find a better way.
Third, we needed the program to be sustainable. It needed to be simple and fun. Today our continuous improvement program incorporates all of these things. Every quarter we meet as a company to review our continuous improvement numbers. We use a big obnoxious gold ball hopper filled with ping pong balls to draw 4 names of people who had submitted ideas that quarter. The winners each get $500. In addition, we do pizza parties, VIP parking, and give away additional vacation days for various levels of participation. It’s a little goofy by design but we have a lot of fun with it.
Most importantly though we all understand the importance of the program. The reality is that without continuous improvement we won’t maintain our position as a world-class manufacturer. It truly is the lifeblood of our business.
We believe everyone has been blessed with a unique set of gifts and talents and is capable of producing awesome ideas. When we are intentional about growth and improvement amazing things can happen.
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