3.1. Postgraduate Courses on Lean Manufacturing (and Related)
There are papers which concern teaching of Lean Manufacturing. However, there have only been a few attempts made to identify the specifics of postgraduate courses, as presented to the international scientific audience. Few papers have discussed teaching of Lean Manufacturing on the postgraduate academic level. Tortorella and Cauchick-Miguel [16
] as well as Tortorella et al. [31
] have discussed integration of two teaching approaches to enhance the Lean Manufacturing (LM) learning at postgraduate courses and to verify their effectiveness by comparing students’ performance and learning preferences. Their studies are focused on teaching effectiveness based on problem-based learning incorporated into traditional approaches. The idea of using problem-based learning, experiential learning, or related approaches, however, seems logical at the first glance. Tortorella and Cauchick-Miguel [16
] as well as Tortorella et al. [31
] have proved that it really is effective when applied to teaching LM, and that problem-based learning (PBL) may be an effective complementary method for LM learning. Their papers have also discussed associations between teaching methods and learning styles. However, the studies in question address the application of teaching approaches to specific Lean Management postgraduate courses, but they lack any details of the entire academic course model.
Selected universities from Poland were analyzed in consideration of how they delivered postgraduate courses on Lean Management. This analysis was supplemented with an analysis of selected courses from the UK, USA, EU, and Australia (see Appendix A
An analysis of the relevant programs implies that participants of the postgraduate courses attach great importance to practical know-how and particularly to learning new tools which they could use in their business environment. Such courses are usually dedicated to specific methodologists (Lean, Kaizen, Six Sigma). An important element of postgraduate studies is the possibility of obtaining a diploma that is recognized in the business environment, besides the university graduation diploma itself.
3.2. Model of the Kaizen Academy Postgraduate Studies—Increasing Managerial Competencies through Practice
Managers know that in order to raise their companies to the world class, they need to master the art of process modeling and improvement. The Kaizen philosophy and methodology, which originated in Japan, has been successfully applied for continuous improvement in numerous Polish companies for many years. The process of continuous improvement by the small steps’ method leads to positive outcomes very quickly. Using simple means, without major investments, efficiency can be boosted in a short time. The effects of the improvement process will be increased efficiency of employees, machines, and equipment, material flow optimization, shortened lead times, stock minimization, greater customer and employee satisfaction, and consequently also culture transformation of the entire business.
Achieving these objectives is only possible through structured and methodological handling of all processes, and by making sure that employees are ready to participate in the never-ending process of continuous improvement. The basis for success is defining transparent goals for the company, establishing a clear operating concept, and then consistently implementing them in practice. In order to succeed in this effort, competent managers are needed to develop and then support these processes. This creates a need for new managerial qualifications.
Investment in knowledge is the best possible one. Every manager knows this. On account of the incredible development of new technologies and rapid changes taking place in the environment, the training of people responsible for the continuous improvement process has become particularly important. The ever-changing requirements make ongoing training necessary. What the continuous improvement process requires in particular is that the knowledge of process managers is continuously extended. The gist of the problem is that different schools and institutions usually offer theoretical knowledge only, while the market needs experienced practitioners almost instantly. There is no time to experiment in your own business. The process of education must proceed in parallel to the practice.
This need provided the grounds for the decision to use the Certified Kaizen College Program, developed in the first decade of the 21st century at the Kaizen Institute, as the subject matter backbone of the postgraduate courses organized by the Faculty of Production Engineering of the Warsaw University of Technology in partnership with Kaizen Institute Poland (Figure 2
The Kaizen Academy Program is totally dependent on the practical requirements of the businesses represented by the students, or the practical requirements of the students themselves. It stands out as being oriented towards achieving a quick return on investment by the students/managers trained in this mode in the form of almost instantaneous transition of the methods learnt into the practice of production, or into another sphere. The minimum objective is to achieve savings corresponding to the training costs actually incurred. The Kaizen Academy program concludes with implementation tasks preceded by knowledge tests following each of the periodical course meeting. Every participant/student of the Kaizen Academy course is obliged to present their supervisor with a project based on the knowledge acquired through the course along with a statement of calculated savings and—once they have been approved—implement the project in the company. The implementation is monitored and consulted by the Kaizen Academy lecturers, providing the grounds for the course completion.
The Kaizen Academy program has been developed by practitioners for practitioners. The lecturers/practitioners tutoring the classes transfer the knowledge derived from their professional experience to the students, thus enhancing the teaching outcome through continuous exercises based on practical real-life examples. Presentations of managers invited from partner companies and practical study visits to a chosen business complement the course curriculum. Being oriented towards real processes, the course guarantees optimal knowledge transfer.
Such a large dosage of knowledge enhancing the students’ practical skills is supplemented with knowledge representing the area of methodological and social competences.
The structure of the Kaizen Academy program is based on three levels of competence building. The first practical competence level allows students to learn methods and techniques that come in handy when process flow is to be improved. Students become capable of using the qualifications they have acquired in a practical way in their respective businesses to achieve initial measurable effects. This level comprises three subjects:
KAIZEN Basics. Students learn the origin, the principles, and the philosophy of Kaizen/Lean. Their waste awareness is sharpened through exercises both on site and under factory conditions. They are taught methods enabling them to systematically eliminate waste.
Total Productive Maintenance Basics. Students learn the goals and objectives, as well as the structure of the TPM system, the major waste types of TPM, as well as the methods of autonomous maintenance. Having acquired this knowledge, the students can successfully implement TPM in their respective companies using Kaizen measures to eliminate disruptions in production and to understand the necessity of a solid data collection system to track and combat further disruptions (visual management).
Total Flow Management Basics. Having completed the seminar, the students understand the goals and methods of the Just-in-Time philosophy. They learn how to analyze and design processes systematically. The newly learned methods enable them to adapt production to changing customer requirements and move toward the vision of an “inventory-free factory”.
The second competence level, i.e., the methodological one, turns a practitioner into a coach capable of taking over the role of a trainer in their business and transferring the freshly acquired knowledge on the methods and techniques of process improvement to others. They can also lead teams and conduct workshops for team-based problem solving. This level covers subjects such the following:
KAIZEN Coach. Having attended the seminar, students are able to recognize the importance of education and training when implementing changes. Students learn how to manage teams targeted to improve process methods and techniques. They can also elaborate upon and implement changes capable of improving training and workshops.
Total Quality Management (TQM). TQM seminars introduce students to comprehensive quality management. Special emphasis during seminars is put on the practical application of TQM tools. Thanks to a multi-stage game simulating production process, students have the opportunity to independently deploy individual TQM tools in the production process. The main assumption behind the seminar is the conviction of the role performed by an operational employee in building product quality.
Total Flow Management Advanced. The seminar is intended to expand students’ knowledge on the issues related to optimization of material and information flow on both a production plant and a global scale, including a number of tools related to external logistics and flow management throughout the entire supply chain.
Total Productive Maintenance Advanced. Students learn and practice further Kaizen/TPM®/Lean tools and methods to systematically reduce or completely eliminate loss and/or waste. Participants learn how TPM® and the zero-line principle work, and which steps are necessary to eliminate machine stops and reduce set times.
Total Service Management. In the advanced seminar, the Kaizen methods previously learned are applied for process optimization in the office and service area. Students learn how to visualize and optimize processes, as well as how targets set for individual employees are derived from superordinate agreed targets, and develop skill profiles based on team boards.
Value Stream Mapping. The seminar applies practical measures to teach how value stream mapping works and how to make business processes more transparent. Students learn to map the material and information flow in the company, to analyze key data, to identify potential, as well as to guide the manufacturing process from the current state to the target state.
Kaizen Transformation Management. Students learn the Kaizen Management System. They are consequently able to provide thorough diagnostics, and to handle strategy development and implementation planning for a successful change process. Students successfully learn the methods and steps to implement Lean and change processes throughout an organization.
The third level of social competence goes beyond the basic scope of the course the academy offers, allowing students to claim the role of an independent expert in the area of process improvement and management, to coordinate all activities in this area, and to take responsibility for implementation of the Kaizen culture in the company. They are being prepared to independently stimulate and supervise the company improvement process on multiple levels. Graduates of the Kaizen Academy are privileged to benefit from additional workshops organized by the academy’s content partner and supplement their competences with whatever they are missing.
What makes the Kaizen Academy courses so unique is that the entire curriculum is basically covered on the ‘gemba’, i.e., on the location where the real value is created. The partner companies of Kaizen Institute Poland not only employ the Kaizen Academy graduates willingly, but it is also thanks to them that the training content is based on real-life examples from their everyday practice. There is no better way to learn than through practice. The knowledge acquired directly on the ‘gemba’ is passed on to students by practitioners representing the partner companies, and the teaching outcome is enhanced by lecturers/consultants based on their extensive international experience and best benchmarking examples. The course’s orientation towards real processes, complemented with new high-quality training materials, guarantees optimal knowledge transfer, which improves not only the practical competences of managers, but also their methodological and social competences.
Upon completion of the course, besides the prestigious graduation certificate issued by the Warsaw University of Technology, the Kaizen Academy graduates also receive applicable international certificates confirming their substantive competences in the field of Kaizen.
3.3. Insights from Kaizen Academy 2009–2018
The basic characteristics of the sample subject to the survey have been provided in Table 2
The average number of implemented tools was 1.96 for large businesses and 1.83 for the medium-size ones. No major differences resulting from the ownership form and the capital type (Polish, foreign) were observed. What should be stressed is that the students attending the courses were predominantly representatives of large or medium-size manufacturing companies. Very rarely did they represent small enterprises and service companies.
A total of 237 cases were studied, out of which 181 were completed with implementations documented in the final theses defended. Ca. 70% of them represented large companies, 24% were medium-size ones, and small enterprises accounted for 6%. Domestic capital companies represented 48% of the population surveyed, while companies with foreign capital accounted for 52%. Privately-owned companies constituted 93% of the population surveyed, while state-owned companies—7%. More than 62% of the implementations concerned production and production-related areas (e.g., technology department, service and maintenance, workshop, warehouse of finished products, supplies, logistics, etc.). Among other areas of activity, (1) sales and commerce as well as (2) administration and accounting (both categories having no link with implementation in production) were represented by 5% of implementations each. Similarly, ca. 5% of the implementations pertained to the entire organization. Other implementations were performed in specific areas of activity of individual businesses, e.g., processing of requests (customer enquiries).
Based on the analysis of the above charts, it can be concluded that the most popular implementation projects among those successfully deployed were the ones with a dominant role of problem-solving tools (Figure 3
and Figure 4
). They represented by far the highest percentage of cases. Additionally, this highlights the practical dimension of the final theses prepared by the course students. It should be noted that, according to the course assumptions, it would be desirable to use different types of tools within the framework of a single thesis (process analysis, process monitoring, and problem solving). What should also be considered as a positive phenomenon is the upward trend observed in terms of the use of the process monitoring tools. This may prove the growing importance of increasing the effectiveness of business processes.
One should also note that, in successive course editions, more emphasis was placed on an increasingly detailed presentation of the use of individual tools, and hence the smaller number of tools used in 2016 and 2018 compared to 2010, as depicted in the graph (Figure 3
, Figure 4
, Figure 5
, Figure 6
and Figure 7
). To a certain extent, this was because the requirements imposed on the students by their final thesis supervisors were more precise.
The predominant process monitoring tools were the Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE), typically related to the implementation of TPM components, and spaghetti diagrams, which are used for a wider array of processes (Figure 6
The predominant problem analyzing tool discussed in the theses was Value Stream Mapping (VSM) (Figure 5
). Also, simpler and more universal tools, such as the Ishikawa and Lorenzo-Pareto charts, were growing in popularity.
An analysis of the graphs implies that 5S is the tool which raised the highest interest (Figure 7
). It is a relatively simple tool, but on the other hand, it provides the grounds for implementation of more advanced techniques and tools. An interesting phenomenon is the increasing interest in suggestion systems, which can be perceived as examples of what is commonly referred to as soft tools or awareness tools. It seems that implementation of such tools may indicate that businesses are undergoing a transformation in favor of greater awareness of the Lean/Kaizen principles.