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A suggestion system, “Kaizen Teian” (literally “Proposal for improvements”), is a communication tool to structure the uplifting of ideas for improvements.


Shigeo Shingoindicated that the production system accounted for 15% of the TPS, the Kanban for 5% and the elimination of Muda for 80%1. In this context, the company must focus on the latter task. In this perspective, in 1951, Eiji Toyoda introduced the Toyota Creative ideas and Suggestion System (TCISS) to support the improvement Program. An idea he took back from Ford following a visit in 1950. The slogan of this approach was then “good thinking, good Products“.

The original banner promoting the approach

In its first year of application, nearly 800 ideas were made while the company has more than 6000 employees2. The emphasis on this system led Toyota to build a performance indicator on the number of suggestions made by the total number of employees. In 1976, this ratio was 10.3 suggestions per employee and then 18.7 in 1980. This ratio then fell over the years 1990 because the management of the company sought to favour the quality rather than the quantity of the suggestions. The quality test was the fact that the suggestion had to be applied in the immediate future. In 2003, an average of 11 suggestions were counted per employee.

This constant search for waste is an obsession that led the company to reduce heating in the employee dormitory during working hours and to indicate the cost of copying on photocopiers to discourage Over-use4. This practice has exceeded the aspects of production to address problems in all services: human Resources,… 5.

More than a tool communicating ideas from the bottom up, it is a management tool to set up a creative, innovative and dynamic business culture by relying on the ideas of the employees themselves. It develops the Involvement and promotes the dynamics of the company’s progress. It is based on a statement:

80% of ideas emanate from people in the Gemba and not from managers

Set up such a system, will allow:

To the company of:

Measure the degree of Involvement of staff by observing the number of ideas issued.

Identify problems by Gembamen.

Capitalize, value and recognize the best ideas.

Create a dynamic of progress.

Increase the Employees “Soikufu“.

To the teams of:

Contribute to the company’s performance

be valued and recognized.

Improve your working environment

Suggestions System Tools

The suggestion sheet

At the closest of the Gemba, the operational must have access to the suggestion sheets. On these sheets, we will “save” an idea and follow the fate of it. A suggestion is a concrete proposal to improve the process, the product or the organisation in the fields of quality, cost, time, security, Motivation.

Once a person has an idea (due to a problem, or during the work…), he takes a suggestion sheet and completes it to the ballpoint pen (to improve readability and keep the writing intact at the time of Reading):

  1. He’s describing the problem.
  2. It offers a clear and precise solution.
  3. It shows the date and my name.
  4. It indicates the benefits expected by the suggestion.
  5. It gives the elements to be able to reach the solution.
  6. He put the plug on the suggestion board in the place provided for that purpose.
  7. And part of the plug is dedicated to the different sequels to give the suggestion.

The lower part of the suggestion sheet will be completed during the animation meetings of the system.

A suggestion is not an opinion, a desire, a claim or a mood. A suggestion is an improvement of a standard, a work process or its daily environment.

The suggestion board

In a logic of animation and Visual management, it is necessary to use a visual support to animate the system of suggestions. by dedicated zone (a workshop or a set of office), the board allows to manage, to follow and to manager the system of suggestions. The panel consists of 6 zones:

  • A blank suggestion card area.
  • A new suggestion area.
  • A selected suggestion area and being processed.
  • An area of suggestion that has been selected and already completed.
  • A non-retained suggestion area.
  • A graph showing the number of suggestions, deductions, unselected and realized.

A location for the “suggestion of the month ” can be provided. Means of valorisation and recognition, it is the opportunity for all to be recognized for the quality of its Involvement In the life of the company.

The suggestion processing meeting

Each week, the facilitator of the area suggestion system organizes a suggestion processing meeting. From 10 to 15 minutes, this meeting, in the presence of the teams concerned, takes place in the Gemba in front of the suggestion panel to make a point on all the suggestions.

Step 1: Update on new suggestions

The moderator takes the new suggestions, reads them to the whole group and then asks the question:

does everyone agree?

In a logic of sharing and consensus, it is expressly recommended not to decide on your own what to do with the suggestions. It is the group that becomes aware of the idea and decides whether it is retained or not.

The criteria for holding a suggestion or not are 2 types:

  • Economical: the Gain/cost matrix will be used to analyze the profitability of the idea.
  • Motivation: The suggestion system is a motivating tool . In this respect, a suggestion which is considered too simple should not be ruled out and the suggestions not adopted must be exceptions. The challenge is to show that the operations are listened to and that they have degrees of freedom in their work.

Two cases will appear:

  • The suggestion is not accepted: An Unchosen suggestion is interesting because it allows to communicate and engage the discussion on a situation with the team. It is the team that must explain to the issuer why its suggestion is not accepted! Thereafter, it will be stored on the table and notified on the indicator as issued and not retained.
  • The suggestion is retained: the moderator validates it by noting on its name, the date of validation and indicates that the suggestion sheet has passed the Plan step of the PDCA. The group decides who will make the suggestion, the expected date of realization and note this in the “ Do “. It will be the same person who subsequently indicates the exact day of the realization of the suggestion.

It is advisable not to spend too much time discussing the solution of a suggestion:

  • Ask to reformulate the problem or solution so that everyone can understand and if necessary go to see directly on the Position.
  • If the problem is too large or too complex, ask the issuer to split its suggestion into several proposals or simply retrace this idea to the services concerned (quality…) that will put in place a project.

Step 2: Point on the selected suggestion sheets and in process

The moderator takes note of all the suggestions sheets and shares with the group the advancement:

  • If the suggestion has not been made, the challenge is to validate that the deadlines will be maintained and to validate that there is no difficulty in its implementation. A system of suggestions with the task of increasing the dynamics of progress, a delay of 3 months in the realization must be exceptional. It is better to give time less than the week.
  • If the suggestion was put in place, the director had to note the day of his realization and indicate on the card that it was made. The group becomes aware of the idea put in place and validates that it is in keeping with the expectation. As a result, the moderator validates the Check step of the PDCA. The group decides who will communicate on the suggestion and note the name in the ” Act “. The person who will be communicating will note the date on which the suggestion was communicated.
  • If the suggestion has already been validated and checked, the group validates that the information is well spent with all the teams involved in this change.
  • Finally, if the suggestion is checked and communicated, we can pass the suggestion form in the suggestions made.
The most advanced companies in setting up the systems of suggestions, requires that each person generates more than 25 suggestions per year with a rate of 90% realized.

Step 3: Update the indicator

The moderator gives an update on all the suggestions and updates directly on the table to the pen the progress of the tracking indicator. This indicator includes per week:

  • Number of suggestions produce
  • Number of suggestions not selected
  • Number of suggestions made

These elements make it possible to calculate the most common indicators in the system of suggestions:

  • Suggestion indicator = Number of suggestions issued over 12 months/NB of people on the site
  • Achievement rate = Number of suggestions made/no suggestions accepted over 12 months
  • % participation = Number of Transmitters/Total number * 100
  • self-realization = Number of suggestions issued/NB Total suggestion made by the issuer

It is possible to add to the graph elements related to the objectives of the suggestions (deadline of achievements, associated gains, number per person…) to complete and follow the evolutions of the dynamics of the team.

Step 4: Replenish the board

At each end of the meeting, the moderator takes stock of the supply of suggestion sheets and replenishes if necessary.

It is advisable to set up a Kanban To replenish the suggestion sheets. By keeping a security stock of a few dozen sheets, it is enough to run this stock using a conventional Kanban.

The recognition

Recognition is a key to the success of the suggestions system and is part of the management system. It is widely recommended not to recognize only financially interesting ideas but to tackle ideas that have impacts on safety and working conditions.

The ” paid ” recognition of the suggestions is often debated. However, it should be noted that, on the principle, it makes it seem that to issue ideas and to participate in the performance of the company is not part of the work, or, this is not the desired message through the establishment of such a system. Originally, this system was in a logical way to do its job conscientiously.

The Monozukuri

Literally translated as “manufacture (Zukuri) a good (Mono)“, this term in Japanese culture goes further than the know-how of the staff to carry out its task. It is a matter of conscientiously doing so. For the Japanese worker, being conscientious is a philosophy of work based on respect for the product and means, and about being focused on the flow of added value and therefore not generating waste.

Today, the suggestions no longer have any effect on the remuneration except that they are taken into account when the time comes to give promotions, an individual who has made suggestions demonstrating his commitment to the success of the company 3.

It is better to value this dynamic with appreciation, symbols (invitation to the Steering Committee…), materials (gift for Christmas…) …

Some tips

  • The participants (animators, operational…) are trained in the suggestion systems.
  • The suggestion meeting is standardized in the agenda of the service meetings.
  • Ensure responsiveness in the implementation of ideas.
  • Time is given to implement the suggestions.
  • Management supports the system. Their punctual presence at the meeting is essential.
  • A system of recognition in the Involvement The system of suggestions can be implemented by the management.

Setting up a system of suggestions





1-Identify the purpose of the system

2-Determine the action plan and the project indicators

3-Choose a “voluntary” Perimeter for the project

4-Carry out the action plan:

  • Prepare the various supports
  • Identify the moderator
  • Train Staff

5-Measuring the results

6-Improving the actions

7-Make a decision on the GO/NO GO

8-Standardize the system

9-Consolidating the gains obtained and the interest of the system

10-Valuing the teams

11-Deploying to other sectors

Interdisciplinary suggestions

Normally, suggestions must be feasible yourself, or by someone else in the service. But there are exceptions: cross-cutting suggestions. These are suggestions whose resulting action cannot be carried out by the person issuing the suggestion and which must be carried out by another service.

Interdisciplinary suggestions do not concern those that can easily be discussed with another service or those that concern managers, but suggestions that affect processes and more general standards. One finds, for example, the fact that the tools are not adapted and that it is necessary to repeat with the methods and the purchases to review the process.

When a interdisciplinary suggestion is mKE, a specific process must be followed:

  1. The suggestion is identified as a interdisciplinary suggestion.
  2. It is sent to the continuous improvement service of the site.
  3. The continuous Improvement service distributes to the manager of the associated service.
  4. The impacted service treats the suggestion.
  5. The service carries out the action and makes the feedback to the issuing person and to the continuous improvement service for communication to the teams.

Introduction to the concept of ideas

Management barriers

Very often the first barrier to the suggestion system is management and for several reasons:

  • Managers do not understand the scope of creativity and the ideas of employees.
  • They underestimate the ability of their collaborators to issue useful ideas.
  • They doubt the effectiveness of the actions designed to promote the production and realization of ideas in the company.

« You can’t imagine the enormous strength that ideas can present,…, when you multiply by the number of people in a business…. With this strength,…, you can be really very different compared to your competitors -Didier LEROY, V-P manufacturing TOYOTA France

The best ideas come from people who do the task 8 hours a day .” 6

For example, an employee’s bright idea was able to provide the company Orange-Itinéris with a significant competitive advantage in 1999:

  1. Orange: Business advisors need to relaunch customers who break their contracts and find out why.
  2. Main reason relied on: the cost, thus proposing a new tariff offer that correspond to the customer’s needs.
  3. Very long, very tedious: ½ hour of calculation per contract and 7 days for a company customer who had subscribed 100 contracts.
  4. The advisor had to interrupt the phone reception and restart the customer once the new price simulations were completed.
  5. One of the customer advisors then develops, alone, a small program on Excel to simplify the task.
  6. Little ergonomic, it presents the project to its center director.
  7. There is a program for simulating live fares. The calculation takes three minutes.
  8. Time savings: 27 minutes of calculation per offer.
  9. 3 880 800 hours of winning over the year, you are allowed to calculate the gain in €.

Expertise and great ideas: a misconception

The Creativity is a complex process that is at the heart of many studies. However, it is to be remembered that it is not the prerogative of the only ” experts ” in a field. Thus, it is widely recognized the effectiveness of a new look on a process.

For example: Gutenberg without special expertise, he gradually acquired technical knowledge on various fields and for the Taste of Research and association, he was able to create the printing press.

In other words, the suggestion system is open to anyone in the business without exception. All and all can be the source of bright ideas via their Soikufu (创意 工夫- Creative thinking)7.


1-S. Shingo (1989)-A Study of the Toyota Production System

2-E. Datyo (2000)-Automation and the organization of production in the Japanese Automobile Industry: Nissan and Toyota in the 1950s

3-J. Benders, M. Morita (2004)-Changes in Toyota Motors operations Management

4-B. Brember, C. Dawson, K. Kerwin, C. palmeri, P. Magnusson (2003)-Can anything stop Toyota?

5-S. Regani, S. Dutta (2004)-Taiichi OHNO and the Toyota Production System

6-I. Getz, A. Robinson (2007)-Your Ideas change everything

7-Y. Worlden (1983)-Toyota production system: Practical approach to production management

K. Shimizu (1994) – Kaizen and work management at Toyota Motor and Toyota Motor Kyushu: A problem in Toyota’s trajectory

M. Beaulieu and S. Landry (2006) – The Toyota Machine

Toyota (1988) – A History of the First 50 years, Toyota Motors Company

M. Udagawa (1995)-the development of production management at the Toyota Motor Corporation

S.R. Olderding (1998)-Toyota on Competition and Quality circles

K. Shimizu (1999)-The Toyotism

L. N. Neagoe, V. Marascu Klein 52009)-Employee suggestion system, the bottom-up approach for productivity improvement


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