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Japanese Lean Term Index

With Lean tracing its roots back to Japan, it is not surprising that it is chock full of Japanese Lean Terms.

This Japanese Lean Dictionary gathers up all the terms Japanese terms in one place for your convenience.

  • Andon (+7-min MP3) An andon light is one of the basic tools of Lean and is one of the most common forms of visual management that you will hear about in Lean. In Lean, andon refers to a signal used to call for help when an abnormal condition is recognized, or that some sort of action is required. ...
  • Baka Yoke Baka yoke is the Japanese term for ‘foolproofing’ or ‘idiot proofing’. Needless to say, it is not the most politically correct of terms, and has been replaced in common use by poka yoke, or ‘mistake proofing.’ The principle is the same for both terms. Prevent mistakes rather than correct defects. The subtle difference between baka yoke ...
  • Chaku-Chaku A chaku-chaku line has a series of machines, each equipped with a hanedashi device, or autoejector. This enables the operator working a chaku-chaku line to walk up and immediately insert the part he is holding into a machine press a start button, and then pick up the previously ejected part. Because the chaku-chaku operator is running several machines, she ...
  • Concrete Head A concrete head is someone who is resistant to the changes that Lean brings. Obviously this is a derogatory term. The term “concrete head’ is the result of a translation from Japanese.
  • Gemba (+4-Min MP3, +6-Page PDF) You can’t really understand a process until you see it at gemba-the real place where the work is done. Learn about this term, answer a poll question, listen to a short audio program, and download a FREE 6-Page PDF on gemba.
  • Gembutsu Gembutsu is a Japanese word meaning ‘real thing’. It is one of the components of the ‘Three Reals‘ meaning go to the real place (gemba) to see the real thing (gembutsu) and collect the real facts (genjitsu). This term simply means that there is no substitute for seeing something with one’s own eyes. Far too often, ...
  • Genchi Genbutsu Genchi Genbutsu
  • Hanedashi A hanedashi device is an automatic part ejector. It reduces waste when an operator approaches a machine to load the next part. In a machine without a hanedashi device, the operator would have to set down the new part that he would be carrying to the machine, pull out the completed part and set it ...
  • Hansei Hansei is a Japanese term that loosely translates to self-reflection. In practice, though, it is much more than that. Hansei requires several things. A person must recognize that there is a problem in personal performance. Hansei is not a run-of-the-mill assessment tool. It looks at personal failings rather than system or process problems. The person must take ...
  • Heijunka The common heijunka definition, production leveling, means transforming the typical peaks and valleys of customer demand into something flatter. That flatness, in turn, makes standardizing production processes easier.
  • Heijunka Heijunka is the Japanese term for level-loading. Heijunka is intended to flatten out the peaks and valleys in demand to create conditions that make standardization easier. It also stabilizes the product mix to support Standard Work. Heijunka is a workaround for variations in demand. Heijunka essentially consolidates short-term daily demand into larger buckets, and then parcels ...
  • Hoshin Kanri Hoshin kanri is a Japanese term meaning policy deployment or strategic planning.
  • Jidoka The most common definition of jidoka is ‘autonomation.’ It is Japanese in origin, as are many specialized words in Lean. Jidoka traces its roots back to the early 1900’s at Toyota in Japan, then a textile manufacturing company. Sakichi Toyoda, an inventor and the founder of Toyota, developed a device that could detect broken threads ...
  • Kaikaku Kaikaku is revolutionary change. Where kaizen is generally evolutionary in nature, kaikaku requires radical shifts in thinking. Revolutionary changes tend to be far more challenging in nature and much less common than incremental improvement. Because of the broad, sweeping changes that kaikaku brings, it is generally driven by higher level leaders, and requires the commitment of ...
  • Kaizen What is the meaning of kaizen? No translation is perfect, but kaizen is a Japanese word that roughly translates to ‘change for the good’. Learning how to implement kaizen concepts properly goes a long way towards improving your job satisfaction in a Lean company. Why? Because you might be asked to participate in a kaizen blitz, ...
  • Kaizen Kaizen is a Japanese word that loosely translates to ‘change for the good.’ So, kaizen simply means to make improvements to a process. Forms of kaizen A week-long kaizen event. Also known as kaizen blitz, rapid improvement process, or continuous improvement workshop. This is what people traditionally think of when they hear the term kaizen. These events use ...
  • Kaizen Charter Form The Kaizen Charter Form helps team leaders organize for rapid improvement projects. It contains team information, the scope, and the targets of the kaizen event. Format: XLSX Regular Price: Free for Registered Users
  • Kaizen Event (+ 11-Page PDF) Kaizen events are typically week-long, focused projects in which a team makes substantial changes to a process. Learn more and, and download a FREE 11-Page PDF on kaizen events.
  • Kanban Kanban is a system used to manage the flow of inventory in a Lean manufacturing process. The word ‘kanban’, in Japanese, means ‘signboard.’ Kanban regulates inventory and helps promote flow. The most common kanban system uses two bins (or marked inventory locations.) When one is empty, it triggers an order. While the production process consumes the materials ...
  • Kanban (+ 11-Page Lean PDF) Kanban is a powerful inventory management tool that provides the stability required to improve operations. Visit this Lean term page to download a FREE 11-Page PDF about kanban.
  • Muda (Waste) Many Lean terms originate from Japan. Muda is one of those terms. It really translates to ‘wasteful activity’, but in common practice most people simply use this definition: muda = waste. Since one of Lean’s main goals is reducing waste to improve flow, it is no surprise that muda had a major role in Lean. If ...
  • Mura Mura is one of three Japanese terms meaning waste. The others are muda, the traditional form of waste in which resources are not effectively used, and muri, meaning overburden or overexertion. Mura means inconsistency or excess variation in either processes or demand. When processes are not standardized, each different method adds wasted movement to a process. ...
  • Muri Muri is a Japanese term for a specific form of waste. It means unreasonableness or overexertion. It is often referred to with two other Japanese terms, muda (the traditional view of waste in which resources are used without adding to output) and mura (variation in methods and demand). When people and machines are pushed beyond a ...
  • Nagara Nagara is a Japanese term meaning ‘while doing something’. It simply means to do more than one thing at a time. For example, a two parts may be fitted together as they are clamped into a welding fixture. Or, a person may be able to assemble two parts while walking. In practice, though, the application of ...
  • Poka Yoke (+ 8-Page Lean PDF, +Video) The best way to eliminate defects is to prevent errors in processes. A poka yoke is a mistake-proofing device that ensures that it is impossible to make a mistake in a process. Visit this Lean term page to learn more and download a FREE 8-Page PDF about using poka yoke in your in Lean operations.
  • Shojinka Shojinka is a form of flexible manufacturing, where the number of workers vary to match demand requirements. This is obviously superior to a static system that staffs work areas without consideration to fluctuations in production requirements. Being able to reassign people to exactly where they are needed will help keep production areas of falling behind. ...
  • Water Spider / Water Strider / Mizusumashi A water spider or ‘mizusumashi‘ in Japanese (see our listing of Japanese Lean terms), is a person who has a prescribed set of tasks to keep materials in stock at the point of use in production areas. (Note that the water spider is alternately called a water strider.) This differs from a material handler in that ...
  • Yokoten Yokoten is a Japanese term that loosely translates into “horizontal deployment.” Essentially, it is the spreading of information across the organization. A key point to this is that it is not just the result that is shared, but also the process that led to the result.

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