What is…?

Glossary for (Japanese) Continuous Improvement Language

Continuous Improvement Glossary: Translation and Connotation

‘Continuous Improvement Language’ contains a dazzling amount of (Japanese) terms and abbreviations. Find here a list of -what I consider to be- important words; not just a translation, but also the connotation behind the word. 

Missing any? Let me know!  


What is 'Aimai'? Aimai means: Vague, ambiguous. Used to describe a situation, layout or instruction that is unclear and non-specific and causing confusion. Even the most critical business process in most companies (yes even within the ones with big names) earn the...

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What is an 'Andon'? An 'Andon' is a visual control device in a production area. An Andon Board typically is a lighted overhead display, giving the current status of the production system and alerting team members to emerging problems.  

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What is 'Anshin'? Anshin means: Peace of mind, Mindful Anshin describes the condition where things are made clear and a person's mind can rest easy from worry. 5S Workplace organisation strives to create the conditions where the employee can work with a clear head,...

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What is 'Chaku-chaku'? Chaku-chaku literally means 'load-load' in Japanese. (Don't confuse it with Chabu-chabu, which is nice food...) Chaku-Chaku is a method of conducting single-piece flow in which the operator proceeds from machine to machine, taking a part from...

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Data versus Information

If you write a report, it is completely data, until someone responds -takes action- to one or more of the items in the report. Those parts than become INFORMATION. Information is data that is being responded to. The challenge now is to create reports that invite to...

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Gemba (Genba)

What is 'Gemba' (or 'Genba')? Gemba is 'The actual place; the place where the work is performed.' 'Work' is defined here as 'Value created'. So Gemba is the place where the value is being (or should be) created. In the 2020 Corona crises, in many countries it became...

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What is 'Hanedashi' Hanedashi means literally 'Automatic Discharge' The machine throws the produced part automatically out; the operator only charges the machine. This means the operator can fully focus on loading the machine and keep the process running smooth. Less...

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What is 'HEIJUNKA'? Heijunka in short: Load leveling, Production leveling, production smoothing. Ideally production can easily be leveled where demand is constant. Unfortunately this is rarely the case because actual customer demand fluctuates. Heijunka -or Load...

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Hiku – Osu

What is 'Hiku - Osu'? 'Hiku' means: Pull, drag, draw stretch.Hiku is the condition of completed work; creating a vacuum that draws the next unit to be worked on, only when it is needed. Versus: 'Osu': Shoving, pushing.Osu is the condition that pushes work forward, in...

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What is 'Hinshitsu'? Hinshitsu means: Quality; it also means Natural. Quality is a natural or normal state. Defects are an abnormal state. Hinshitsu distincts two kinds of 'Quality': Atarimae Hinshitsu - The idea that things will work as they are supposed to (e.g. a...

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What is 'Hitozukuri'? Hitozukuri means literally:  Hito= 'people' and Zukuri (tsukuru) 'process of making'; -> the process of educating and forming people. Just as with monozukuri, the literal translation does not convey the real connotation of hitozukuri. Prof....

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What is 'Jidoka'? Jidoka means 'autonomation'. Jidoka -Autonomation- should not be confused with automation! Transferring human intelligence to automated machinery so that machines are able to detect autonomously the production of a single defective part and...

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What is 'Kamishibai'? Kamishibai (紙芝居), literally 'paper drama', is a form of storytelling that originated in Japanese Buddhist temples in the 12th century. Kamishibai: Story with a moral lesson Monks used e-maki (picture scrolls) to convey stories with moral lessons....

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What is 'Kanban'? 'Kanban' is a signal for controlling production and inventory on the shop floor. A kanban is usually a card, container, token or other means to visually signal: "Produce" or "Deliver". Beer-Kanban Beer drinkers now the system: You are drinking from...

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What is 'Karakuri'? Karakuri means 'mechanisms' or 'trick' Karakuri is a mechanism that uses gravity, springs and gears instead of external power sources to manipulate objects

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What is 'Kata'? Kata means literally: ‘Form’ or ‘Pattern’; The Japanese term ‘Kata’ originates from martial arts, where it is a sequence of steps or movements, repeated over and over again to create ‘muscle memory’. (see: ShuHaRi) Kata creates 'muscle memory' Kata is...

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What is 'Kega'? Kega means: 'Getting hurt'. The kanji [Ke] [Ga] can be read as 'even for me'  'it is looks strange' 'Kega' expresses accidents happening at moments of Mura and Muri; deviant situations, overburdening the system and leading to uncontrolled situations;...

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Keiken Ganai

What is 'Keiken Ganai? Keiken stands for 'experience, maturity' Ganai (Ga Nai) means: 'does not have' Keiken Ganai means 'does not have experience or maturity'. Within Lean or Monozukuri different levels of understanding of the process and tools can be wittnest....

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What is 'Keiretsu'? Keiretsu means literally 'system, series'. Usually it refers to a a group of Japanese businesses that are closely linked through shareholding, etc, and form a strong corporate unit Producing in a monozukuri environment means the whole supply-chain...

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What is 'Kino'? Kino means: 'Function' Its meaning in Lean or Monozukuri is: What does it really do? By truly understanding the function of something, it can be reduced to its simplest form.

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Ljo – Seijo

What is 'Ljo'? Ljo means: 'Abnormal, deviant'  (Translation not confirmed: What is the difference to 'Mu'?) Ljo describes a condition of being 'out of specification', not standard, non-compliant. Ljo is opposite to Seijo meaning: 'Normal'. (Translation not confirmed:...

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What is 'Minomi? Minomi stands for 'Without Packaging, Only the Content' or 'Just the core, the essence' Minomi says: 'I only want the content, not the wrapper' The word Minomi relates to the essence; as the 'good' in (Kai)Zen. It implies the question: What is the...

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What is 'Mitsu-Zo'-  (Moonshining) Mitsu-Zo means: Brewing liquor illegally (in th US referred to as "moon shining") In the early days of the Toyota Production System, those who used their own ingenuity and understanding of a process to make their own equipment...

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What is 'Mizenboshi'? Mizenboshi means: Prevent problems to be able to manifest; stop a problem before it exists. Mizenboshi is the process of organizing work in a way that before a problem is going to occur it is already detected. In order to prevent the problem from...

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Mizu Sumashi

What is 'Mizu Sumashi'? Mizu sumashi means Literally: whirligig (an object that spins or whirls) Mizu Sumashi lost in Translation... Mizu sumashi usually is translated as 'water strider' (or 'water skeeter') which then again should be translated as AMENBO in Japanese....

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Muda – Mura – Muri

What is 'Muda'? MUDA means: Any activity in your process that does not add value. MUDA is not creating value for the customer. In short: WASTE 2 types of Muda Type I muda: Non-value-added tasks which seem to be essential. Business conditions need to be changed to...

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What is 'Nagare'? Nagare means: 'Flow, flowing like a river'. To create loss free processes, it is the goal to make things flow in a natural way, to make the workplace come alive where you can see its heart beat and feel its tempo. To understand 'Nagare' better, it...

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What is 'Nemawashi'? Nemawashi means "The preparations for transplanting a large tree". It refers to the persuasion of related individuals prior to a formal decision making meeting. Before going into a meeting where (important) decisions have to be made, 'nemawashi'...

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What is 'Netsui'? Netsui means 'Strong spirit'.When going through deep change process - not unusual during kaizen events like Makigami, SMED, or other SGA's - Netsui is required cope with the resistance one will meet as a natural response of the organisation....

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Obeya – Obeyaka (Obeya Room)

What is 'Obeyaka'? Obeyaka means 'Big room for cooperation' The term Obeyaka is (also) used to describe the method of getting affected people to work together cooperatively to solve problems. What is 'Obeya'? Obeya literally means "Big Room". Obeya Room An 'Obeya...

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What is 'Poka-yoke'? Poka-yoke can be best translated as 'Fail Safe'; It can not go wrong/be done wrong Poka-yoke can be a mistake-proofing device or procedure to prevent making a mistake. Fail-safe by design Poka yoke can also be a design-choice: It is not possible...

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Process Teams

Process Teams versus the Functional organisation Most companies are organized functionally: a planning department, a production department, a maintenance department etc. as demonstrated in fig 1 fig 1: The functional organization Taylor This organisational structure...

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What is 'Sensei'? Sensei (先生): Literally: Sen: Further, Forward Sei: Life Sensei translates as 'The one that brings others forward in life' In the Japanese tradition it is a Master that is willing to teach. Although it is tempting to translate 'Sensei' as Teacher,...

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What is 'Sesshin'? Sesshin means literally 'gathering the mind' A Sesshin is a period of intensive meditation (zazen) in a Zen monastery, or in a western Zen centre. While the daily routine in the monastery requires the monks to meditate several hours a day, during a...

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What is 'Shojinka'? Shojinka means: A reduction of the amount of employees, but only if it REALLY leads to a reduction of cost. If, by eliminating losses, less labor is needed to create the same value, the employee is no longer needed in this process. Since the...

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Standard Work

Standard Work (According to Shingijutsu) Looking at the operations on manufacturing floor, you see operators picking up materials, putting them down, stacking them or searching for them. These motions add no value, in other words, they are wasted (MUDA). To "work"...

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What is 'Tenuki'? TENUKI means: An employee is not doing what he should do (he should be adding value, hataraki). He is doing something else, so wasting his energy (ugoki) Tenuki could be translated as 'absence'. Your first association would be with illness. But this...

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What is 'Yamazumi'? a Yamazumi is a stack chart, showing work balance among operators. It is used to make sure work is evenly distributed (no MURA - uneveness) and each operator has a full day's work. Example:

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What is 'Zazen'? Zazen literally means "seated meditation" Zazen is at the heart of Zen Buddhist practice. The aim of zazen is just sitting in meditation and creating a state of mind where the mind is able to be unhindered by its many layers (our ego), one will then...

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What is 'Zen'? Zen is often translated as: The ideal state, ideal harmony, the natural way of things, good. Actually, Zen is a school of Buddhism. The word is derived from the Sanskrit dhyāna, which means "meditation" and translated via the Chinese Chán to the...

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Cost reduction

If cost-reduction is your target, you have an easy job! Close your facility and you’ll have no more cost!

Ridiculous? Indeed. Nevertheless you are probably steering on cost reduction… But low cost is not the goal of your organization!

What IS your Goal?

Think about what ís the goal and achieve this in the most effective way. You will learn that low cost than becomes a logic result of high quality!

You don’t believe this? Do you really (REALLY) know what determines the cost of you services or conversions? Then you’ll also know that most of the cost are made by non-value adding activities or even non-activities!

As long as you do not know the difference between what is adding value to your business (and its stakeholders) and what is not, you will spend tons of your time and resources on things you might as well not have done. In other words: you are shredding your own profit!

Shocking? Indeed! And it is your task as a manager to create a system that allows your employees to ultimately add value to the one party that brings the stuff that fuels your business: The customer! All the others come and eat from this fuel! Important of course! But only óne party brings the fuel!

So your only added value as a manager is to manage this change towards a loss free organization. And this is never ending, because the customers demand will keep changing, whether you like it or not!