Lean and Kaizen: Using AI to Achieve Continuous Improvement

05 Jun, 2024 | By Nita Naidoo

As a kaizen consultant working with clients globally, I’ve found the relevance of Lean principles quietly questioned. Is this another field AI will take over? Not so. Instead, AI provides incredible opportunities to improve production and service.

There’s no question that artificial intelligence tools, such as generative AI, can perform tasks faster and more economically than people alone. However, those closest to the work should always remain the driving force for change. Empowering teams with autonomy and providing access to AI tools ensures change initiatives will be grounded and insight-driven when removing waste that doesn’t add value for your customers.

AI’s Role in Lean/Kaizen Problem-Solving:

As a kaizen consultant, part of my expertise is uncovering the root cause of an operational problem, devising a remedy, and ensuring that the improvement sticks. With its ability to analyze vast amounts of data, AI is a powerful problem solver, providing insights and solutions at unprecedented speeds. AI has already repeatedly demonstrated its worth when it comes to repetitive operations. However, tasks that require contextual awareness, creativity, and understanding still need the human touch and insight and remain the domain of process improvement specialists like me.

Many companies already use AI tools to automate processes and enhance employee productivity. Johnson & Johnson recently implemented an ambitious “Intelligent Automation” initiative that applies automation and AI tools to automate processes and improve productivity, which has saved the company half a billion dollars in costs to date. However, it’s vital that any improvement efforts introduced, AI or otherwise, must be anchored in purpose—it should contribute to your company’s true north, connecting teams and fuelling a drive for change and positive improvement.

Remember to Follow-Through

Successfully implementing a system for continuous improvement takes ongoing time and effort. Without the right support and follow-through, so many businesses backslide. Only about 30% of organizations stay on track regarding continuous improvement efforts, even with AI. Follow-through is necessary.

Once introduced, continuous improvement doesn’t automatically become embedded in a company’s mentality. Rather, it’s a matter of reviewing goals and implementation, ongoing training, and succinctly communicating how proposed changes will benefit a company and its employees.

In an increasingly competitive market, practices like Lean and Kaizen are more critical than ever. AI has an important role to play in allowing organizations to streamline and improve performance.

Is it time to talk about how AI could work to save your team money and improve operations? Let’s talk about how Lean and AI could pave the way for a future of innovation and progress in your industry.

Contact Leslie at  416.528.7990 or leslie@leanexpansion.ca to discuss and get started.