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Transferring Japanese kaizen activities to overseas plants in China

Katsuki Aoki (Faculty of Economics, Kanto Gakuin University, Japan Cardiff Business School, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK)

International Journal of Operations & Production Management

ISSN: 0144-3577

Article publication date: 23 May 2008




The purpose of this paper is to examine management practices in transferring Japanese kaizen activities to overseas plants. The aim is to provide a greater understanding of organisational capabilities that facilitate an incremental organisation‐wide innovation.


Case studies of nine medium‐ and large‐sized Japanese auto‐parts overseas plants in China were conducted. The data were analysed by comparing the successful cases of management practices concerning the transfer of Japanese kaizen activities to overseas plants with unsuccessful ones. Based on the assumption that learning is situated in the context, the concept of communities of practice promoted by Wenger is used as the analytical framework of this study.


The results of the comparative analysis show some common characteristics of management practices in successful cases: they actively used team‐based rather than individual‐based suggestion schemes; they had human resource practices that emphasised the importance of having workers who could do more than one job and long‐term employment; and the managers of successful cases conducted shop floor visits to check the work processes every day.


This study suggests the necessity for the researchers and practitioners of kaizen to consider a healthy balance between three types of organisational capabilities that encourage workers' self‐initiative, facilitate cross‐functional communication, and discipline workers.



Aoki, K. (2008), "Transferring Japanese kaizen activities to overseas plants in China", International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 28 No. 6, pp. 518-539.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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