KAIZEN™: the Natural Decision – Learning by doing with Kaizen Institute


We know that KAIZEN™ must be implemented at all stages in an organization to see sustainable achievements. “It’s important to understand the roles of the consultant, our people, and our teams, and use this period of cooperation with Kaizen Institute Poland as a transfer of knowledge for our company.” That’s Wojciech Smardz’s summarization of CIECH’s collaboration with Kaizen Institute Poland.

In this second article of a trilogy, Director of Operational Excellence and Supply Chain of CIECH, discusses what’s important for CIECH when working with Kaizen Institute Poland and their early steps of KAIZEN™ implementation with Robin Cox, Kaizen Institute, Ltd.

CIECH: Business Units

CIECH is an international chemical group with a strong position on European and global markets. They build a future-proof and modern chemical holding, that generates value for its stakeholders. Their six business units support the organization, making them the second largest soda producer in Europe and the largest vacuum salt producer in Central and Eastern Europe.

  • Soda
  • Agro
  • Silicates
  • Salt
  • Foams
  • Packaging

What’s important for CIECH when collaborating with Kaizen Institute?

There are a few points that are important for me when we cooperate with Kaizen Institute. First, it is very important for me to see during the cooperation with Kaizen Institute that they are listening to us. We went to gemba with Kaizen Institute Poland to see where we had the problem, what kind of challenges we had, and then we discussed with the people who work with the managers. After that, we understood the concept of the corporation. It’s important for us that we have this period of listening and understanding.

The second point is that when we are working with consultants from Kaizen Institute Poland, they are not doing everything alone. It’s rather the period when our people are doing, and the consultant is supporting us. Our employees not only participate in lean training, but from the beginning they are involved in activities, and take responsibility for individual areas and stages of projects. We see how quickly they get involved. For us, building such an attitude is very important. That way, we are transferring the knowledge to our company. It’s important to understand the roles of the consultant, our people, and our teams, and use this period of cooperation with Kaizen Institute as a transfer of knowledge for our company.

Lastly, during the collaboration we see that we should change something because we observe different challenges and investigate other challenges. At the beginning of our cooperation, we agreed that sometimes we should change if we see the necessity. They are very flexible to change when we need to. We can always receive support for this from Kaizen Institute Poland.

What changes is CIECH making regarding Daily KAIZEN™?

We started this approach in May / June 2022. Of course, in CIECH there were some areas where we used the KAIZEN™ approach but it was limited. Now we have started the program, Operational Excellence. The program is covering the whole group, all our businesses, all our factories and locations. In a few months we started to implement 5S. We have the plan to implement 5S in the factories: our laboratories, warehousing, production sites, and different parts of the production. The plan is to implement 5S until the first half  of 2024 to cover these areas, like production warehousing. After completing the implementation activities and celebrating and thanking the team for their work, the area moves on to the maintenance process. In this activity, as part of regular periodic visits, we assess the current level of maintaining the implemented practices, to see what we can do more of and what we can correct. The maintenance process is crucial for consolidation and expansion.

Thanks to the cooperation with Kaizen Institute Poland, we were able to accelerate our activities in starting the implementation of 5S, since we did not have our own resources and competences in the organization. We are also working with operational reviews, so in some structures of the organization we have started to change our operational reviews, like building meeting agendas, creating action plans, responsibility, KPIs, etc.

We have also started the value stream analysis at two of our locations. We made workshops where we investigated projects, and now we are working with them, and we see the first effects.

The history of KAIZEN™ is not long in CIECH, but we see the first successes in the implementation of the KAIZEN practices.

Interested in learning the changes that Wojciech Smardz has seen physically and mentally throughout CIECH since the start of their KAIZEN™ journey and 5S implementation? Watch out for the next post!

Click here to read the first part of this trilogy.

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