Is Kaizen Shaping

Is Kaizen Shaping Work Habit in Ethiopia?

Unlike the past currently products made in Japan are among the few products that are sought after their high quality standards not only here in Ethiopia but also around the globe. The underlying reason behind such a dramatic turnaround is their workplace philosophy called Kaizen. Almost six decades after the Japanese started implementing it; Ethiopia is trying to adapt it. EBR’s Pawlos Belete explores what it means, how it is being adapted and the results achieved so far in his report.

Every nation around the world is naturally endowed with two most important economic resources; labor and land. But it is the former resource that is seen as the major factor for making a significant difference to reducing poverty and backwardness. That is where the difference in the economic footing among countries starts to emerge.
The late Ethiopian Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, was quick to realize the benefit of utilizing the human resource in Ethiopia by applying Kaizen properly through the help of the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) after he learned about kaizen in 2008 at Tokyo Conference on African Development.
“What we hope to achieve through the introduction of the kaizen system is improvement in the productivity of all our enterprises, public and private,” Meles was once quoted by a local media explaining why his government had sought Japan’s help.
“In the course of implementing kaizen we focus on changing the mind set of an employee and look for avenues that creates harmonious working relation, which brings a sense of team work,’’ says Kebede Tsegaye, director of Service Improvement Directorate at the Ethiopian Kaizen Institute (EKI). ‘‘We do that because individually we are a drop but together we are an ocean.”
The Japanese word Kaizen comprises two words: Kai and Zen which literary means change and better, respectively. Together it means continues improvement in quality of produce and hence the livelihood of those involved. The word is a Japanese workplace philosophy that lent a hand to channel Japan’s resurgence from the wreck of defeat in World War II. Now, it has been making a difference in the work thoughts and habit of Ethiopians.
In Ethiopia, Kaizen is has been applied in 200 companies so far. Focusing on eight area of intervention, which includes quality, cost, productivity, delivery time, safety, motivation, work environment and gender participation, the EKI has saved more than ETB1 billion in the past two years of its engagement with economic entities of the country.
The Institute recently reported that companies that has implemented kaizen has managed to secure thousands of meter square in factory space, increased productivity by more than 30Pct and reduced default rate by more than 50Pct.
Of course, for walking the talk of the philosophy, the effects brought on the ground are visible and practical. Inside Ethiopia’s Agricultural Equipment and Technical Service (EAEATS) Sh. Co.; a publicly owned business enterprise, distinctive runway strips with yellow margins indicate pathways across workshop floors; tools are allocated clearly labelled places from where to hang on walls; boxes are stacked neatly in rooms in which diagrams indicate where particularly items are found. It might not sound ground-breaking change but it wasn’t always like that.
Established in 1978 and creating close to 500 job opportunity in its capital intensive business venture, EAEATS has 37 years of service under its belt in agricultural mechanization. It is engaged in agricultural machinery rental, maintenance and assembly, import and distribution of agricultural mechanization equipment.
“By implementing Kaizen in our company we have been able to create a suitable working environment and reduce the risk of safety concern, which greatly improved employees motivation and sense of creativity,” Gislaw Tulu, executive of Planning and Business Development at EAEATS explains while EBR was on a tour at the headquarter of the company in front of Ethiopian Revenue and Custom Authority branch in Kality on May 18, 2015.
Gislaw says the company have implemented Business Process Reengineering (BPR) prior to Kaizen by putting a lot of emphasis on the process of the company than its human resource. ‘‘That was a source of dissatisfaction for many of our staffs,’’ Gislaw recalls. ‘‘But Kaizen solved all the dissatisfaction of our staffs and increased team spirit and sense of belongingness, which has benefited us a lot.”
The basic principle of Kaizen is the organization of workers into small groups of about five to six persons. Each group is called a Kaizen Promotion Team (KPT). Each KTP meets each day to identify and discuss problems or procedures that could be improved.
Officials of the Institute say this forms a feedback mechanism in an economic entity by creating a room to pass concerns to middle management so that it considers whether an action is warranted or not. Simple principles of tidiness and self-discipline are among the foundations of the approach. So far, the Institute trained more than 135,000 people and created close to 15,000 KPT in the 200 companies it engaged with.
Here, the government’s vision is that the lessons and methodologies, which proved successful for Japanese companies and enabled many of them to become world class competitors both in terms of quality and price can benefit Ethiopian companies if implemented at the very start of their business journeys to take off in to the world stage.
Daniel Tadesse is in his mid 50s currently serving EAEATS as the head of the electric department in its workshop. He has been working for the company for more than three decades now. Both Daniel and Gislaw recall that the workshop of the company used to be untidy, unorganized and prone to risk of safety like sliding prior to the implementation of kaizen. That has caused Daniel and his colleague to lose a significant amount of time and interest in their work. Now, the workshop is tidy, organized and more secure in terms of safety.
“As a result of the change in the work place our motivation and sense of ownership has increased,’’ says Dainel while explaining the change Kaizen brought in his department.
‘‘We have created a winding machine with an estimated market value of more than ETB500,000 using in house material except for the counter.”
The company declares that it has profited more than ETB5.1 million in the first year of implementing kaizen. The individual labour productivity of the company has increased from 5.39 to 6.16 hour per day which is 14.3Pct rise.
Unlike EAEATS, Peacock Shoe factory is a private business venture, which provides 60Pct of its product to international market. Although different in their ownership and business engagement, both companies have benefited by applying the basics of Kaizen. According to Chalew Alehegn, Kaizen officer at Peacock Shoe factory, they have witnessed a remarkable change in their productivity after applying kaizen philosophy in their firm. They used to produce 771 pairs of shoe every day. Now, they produce 960. This means they managed to produce additional 189 pair of shoe per day using the same machine and labor force.
Established in 1994, Peacock is one of the sister companies under Dire Industries Plc- a family owned company which is engaged in multi-business activities including manufacturing, import and export, merchandise trade, real-estate investments and transport. It has an installed production capacity 36,000 pairs of shoe per month. The factory which has created employment opportunity for 337 citizens is located inside Saris Industry Zone of the Nifas Silk Lafto sub-city of Addis Ababa.
“The productivity of our firm increased in terms of labor, machine, resource use, and workplace organization. The driving force behind all these change is the change in the mind set of our human resource induced by Kaizen training,” explain the officer. “If we multiply the additional production by an average selling price of ETB 400, it is more than ETB75,000 additional income per day.
Chalew says even the companies input usage has improved since it used to use 2.5 to 3.5 square feet for making a pair of shoe depending on their model but now, that has decreased by 0.1 square feet, on average.
Indeed, at the heart of Kaizen are simple principles like keeping the workplace neat and tidy, encouraging workers to suggest innovations rather than wait for instructions and working with local resources. In the early stage, a company that is applying Kaizen concentrates on organizing the workplace and building a team ethic, according to the director of the Institute. Motivation, productivity and creating a mood of change come next while the long term theme is on innovation and management.
But stakeholders say some themes of the philosophy might not be controversial, such as reorganizing a workshop floor to save space but persuading bosses to listen to their staff – and giving workers the self-confidence to make their own suggestions is a daunting task.
Although JICA has introduced programs of quality and productivity improvement in six other African countries including Tunisia, Egypt, Ghana, Tanzania, Zambia and Kenya, it is in Ethiopia that the philosophy has really taken hold. In fact, Ethiopia is the only country with a dedicated Kaizen institute. Top-level government support and funding directed to EKI has enabled the institute to increase its staff from 10 to 97. That is another reason why Kaizen is flourishing in Ethiopia.
Shinzo Abe, Japanese Prime Minister when he visited Ethiopia said that the EKI should become a centre of excellence for human resource development across African continent. That is about to happen since the Institute is in the process of building its own complex in collaboration with JICA. The complex will have a capacity to train 120 individuals and house 290 staffs. The Institute is planning to branch out in to Amhara, Oromia, Southern, Tigray regions as well as in Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa, according to Kebede.
Ethiopia has been pursuing its five year national economic plan, which is about to end paving a way for the second one, the Growth and Transformation Plan II (GTP II), aimed at expanding manufacturing employment and help rural communities diversify their livelihoods by shifting labour from less productive sector to a more productive one. According to Getahun Tadesse, Director General of EKI, Kaizen doctrine will be written into GTP II, set to start in 2016.
Experts of the Institute who spread the message to stakeholders mainly engaged in manufacturing of exportable item. Listening to their buoyant and zeal, it would not be easy to dismiss the change they have brought as a passing management scuttle for a time being. But their enthusiasm is not without a challenge. Their eagerness is being put to test by lack of means of transport, which is contributing its part for employee turnover which stands at 35Pct currently. Will this shutter the hopes of the Institute to deliver change in the work habits of Ethiopians remains to be seen in the due course of time. EBR

3rd Year • June 16 – July 15 2015 • No. 28

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