International transfer of Kaizen: Japanese manufacturers in the Netherlands

Kodo Yokozawa

    Research output: ThesisPhD Thesis - Research UT, graduation UT

    307 Downloads (Pure)


    Kaizen, the synonym for continuous improvement, is an essential component of Japanese management system. Kaizen programs have long been employed with great success in Japanese companies. Due to their origin in Japanese organisations, and their embeddedness in Japanese context, applicability of kaizen to countries with different cultures and different management styles still remains to be understood. The purpose of the research is to investigate the international transfer of kaizen. Case study research was conducted among 15 Japanese manufacturers in the Netherlands. The Netherlands has been a biggest recipient of Japanese FDI since 2003 in Europe. It was found that the kaizen was transferred through four stages: preparation, communication, implementation, and integration. • The first-level analysis confirms the conclusion from the literature that the major issues are low top management commitment, communication difficulties, and high labour turnover. However, the second-level analysis reveals that the use of Japanese expatriates itself turns out to be the root cause of those major problems. This study suggests that the effective approach for successful kaizen transfer is placing the local managing director who is experienced and committed to kaizen implementation. • Wu and Chen (2006) state that any activity has its life cycle: introduction, growth, maturity and decline. Proper regenerative inputs need to be injected before an activity declines, so that the firm’s improvement level can be moved up to a higher level. The finding suggests that a new area for improvement (e.g. quality, productivity, and delivery time) could be used as a proper regenerative input as it can provide motivation for improvement. By properly sequentially timing activity cycles, the organisation can improve overall and while maintaining employee morale. • Two main external factors, not previously identified in the literature, were found: the level of eagerness of employees and the level of discipline of employees. It was also found that, based on these two factors, transferring kaizen to the Netherlands is very challenging. Companies benefit from this research because it contributes to understanding how easy it will be to transfer kaizen. Having this understanding allows companies to set more realistic expectations with regard to kaizen implementation.
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Twente
    • de Bruijn, E.J., Supervisor
    • Steenhuis, H.J., Supervisor
    • de Bruijn, E.J., Supervisor
    • Steenhuis, H.J., Supervisor, External person
    Award date12 Mar 2012
    Place of PublicationEnschede
    Print ISBNs978-90-365-3288-4
    Publication statusPublished - 12 Mar 2012


    • METIS-285683
    • IR-79804


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