Kaizen, or “continuous improvement”, means constantly working towards improving processes, no matter how small the improvement. The idea of kaizen has famously been applied at Toyota to their manufacturing process but the concept has also been applied by GM to make their manufacturing plants more environmentally friendly.
GM’s Lansing Delta assembly plant in the the world’s only to have received Gold Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) system. They achieved this goal by making many small (and some large) improvements to their processes. For example, they use bright lights were tasks are needed and dim or no lighting where light is not needed (such as where robots are working). The restrooms use rainwater collected from the roof and the roof is painted white to reduce heat absorption. (Both the light and rainwater examples emphasize that an important resource should be used only where needed.) But more important than any single idea, the implementation of Kaizen changes how employees view their environment and motivates them to generate further ideas.
Automotive News, August 11, 2008 – GM Factory a Model of Sustainable Manufacturing