The 59. year of KAIZEN conference took place in Japanese town Ube

We are posting findings of our colleague, Mr. Milan Kovář, from his first business trip to the Land of the Rising Sun. 

59. KAIZEN Conference – Japan 

KAIZEN – the meaning of this word, improvement process, is familiar to almost every employee of our company from production to management. 

Last autumn, we surpassed the milestone of 1000 submitted KAIZEN proposals for FY 2018. However, that is not all; all modifications, adjustments and changes conducted on daily bases represent the process of improvement within KSE. These can be, for instance, various short-term or semi-annual projects managed by production teams, or simply the facilitation of work procedures, which sometimes do not follow operating and technological procedures. The employees’ interest in the improvement process was the core feature of the Kaizen Conference held from 21 – 22 November 2018 in the Japanese town of Ube, located in the Yamaguchi prefecture. There, the companies within Nippon Kayaku Group can share and interchange the best improvements and interesting projects on a yearly basis. 

Our group, consisting of Milan Kovář (GL PLSQ) as a presenter, Stanislav Hekrla (GL PP), Radim Václavík (S ENG), Karel Cedivoda (PROD PLSQ) and Soňa Havrilová (S BCS) as a guide and Czech-Japanese interpreter, participated in the conference with the topic “Elimination of the physically demanding workplaces” focusing on the PLSQ production group. 

The day-long journey from Vsetin to Osaka via Vienna and Helsinki is exhausting, however, we finally see Japan with our own eyes. We absorb everything new and try to cope with cultural differences. 

People wearing mouth coverings are the first thing to catch our attention. Soon, we find out that the reason for wearing these is simple – consideration for others. To prevent illness, inhabitants of Japan protect both themselves and others. 

After a short period of acclimation in Osaka, we move by train to Himeji where we are invited to visit our sister plant. We are acquainted with the Micro Gas Generator (MGG) and inflator production processes and the new warehouse for finished products. We are surprised that the manual work, for instance manual insertion of the AC cup for inflators into the assembly, constitutes a big part of the production process. They explain to us that this is a necessary step leading to easy and quick re-typing of the assembly when needed, which is a necessity. 

They use our plastic squib (PLSQ) for MGG production. When I ask them whether any problems emerge when it comes to the PLSQ, they reply that they have none! It is very pleasant feeling for which we have to thank our colleagues from PLSQ! 

In the afternoon, we move 400 km further southwest to the town of Ube where the 59th Annual KAIZEN Conference takes place. We start the day by visiting the plant where functional chemicals, e.g. materials used in integrated circuits and LCD displays, are produced. The absorptive fillings for diapers are produced there as well. 

Then, we move to the site of the Conference. It commences in the morning and lasts for two days simultaneously in two congress halls. Organization of the whole event is thoroughly planned to the last detail. The organizers of this event are respectful but non-compromising – everything must be done on time. When it comes to the presentations, the content and the presentation technique are evaluated. Of course, presenters must strictly comply with the time limit. A ring of a bell means that the presentation shall be over soon. A second ring would mean a loss of points. 

Our presentation deals with several KAIZEN proposals resolving the elimination of the physically demanding work such as switching from manual lacquering to mechanical lacquering, charge mixing with a magnetic stirring device or a change of the dipping trailer´s parameters aiming at reducing the occupational stress that the employees have to face. The presentation technique, the translation and even the projections are done to perfection without any mistakes and within the timeframe. 

During the two days, we meet a lot of interesting people from various fields. During the meetings and interviews with the president of Nippon Kayaku, Mr. Masanobu Suzuki, or with the main representative of the Safety Systems Group (SSG), Mr. Atsuhiro Wakumoto, we feel the enormous respect that they feel towards our company. 

On the last day of our stay in Japan, we have the opportunity to visit the Peace Memorial Park and Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, which we take as a reminder of the horrifying atomic explosion in Hiroshima.

It all passes so quickly. We are now sitting in the plane again and must face the 24-hour-long trip back home. 

We are talking about our experience, looking forward to seeing our families, however, it is a pity, that we have not had more time to explore this beautiful country more deeply. This country is full of pleasant and respectful people surrounded by breath-taking landscapes and fascinating culture. The country is so different from Europe. 

Our visit to Japan connected with the KAIZEN Conference, visits to production plants and the opportunity to, at least for a while, get acquainted with this country is a valuable benefit for us. Everything was new and different for us and we truly appreciate having had this opportunity.

If our company is invited to participate in the 60th KAIZEN Conference next year, I believe that our representatives will do our company proud once again and maybe we will be able to get the best improvement project award.

Milan Kovář, Group Leader PLSQ

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