News Article

Kaizen: Danaher's approach to global excellence

February 1, 2024
Kaizen at Aldevron – Fargo, ND
Kaizen at Aldevron – Fargo, ND

Great businesses exist to serve customers, and Danaher relies on its empowered and motivated people to deliver solutions to a customer base that provides critical global healthcare services. 

For Danaher, a global life sciences and diagnostics innovator, the cycle of improving results for customers and fulfilling the employee experience stems from the philosophy of continuous improvement: Danaher is all-in on an approach called kaizen, which means ‘change for the good.’ 

There’s a visceral energy that arises from being part of a team that achieves profound results in the span of just one week. Being part of a kaizen team is the same feeling you get from rolling up your sleeves with a motivated group of friends or family to get something important done together. 

At Danaher, kaizen events bring together associates at all levels who work side-by-side to achieve a common goal. “It’s not just about identifying why we have a gap, or an improvement opportunity – we also implement the actual change,” says Joakim Weidemanis, EVP of Danaher’s Diagnostics platform. “Kaizen events are some of the most exciting experiences you can be a part of in Danaher – they’re fun and high energy and they make our businesses better and help us deliver better outcomes for our customers.” 

A Japanese philosophy centered on continuous improvement, kaizen serves as the cornerstone of the Danaher Business System (DBS), which is a key differentiator that sets Danaher’s work and associate experience apart. A core value for the company is Kaizen is Our Way of Life.  Danaher CEO Rainer Blair puts that message into his own words: 

 We get inspired by leaders dropping their rank at the door, getting their hands dirty and making something happen in the manufacturing cell. That's what our culture is all about.

Since Danaher’s founding nearly 40 years ago, DBS and kaizen philosophy have empowered Danaher’s leaders to foster a culture that surpasses the status quo to deliver results.  One of the many ways Danaher amplifies the impact of this model is through its ongoing CEO Kaizen events, which bring Danaher’s most senior leaders closer to the point of impact as they work side by side with associates in kaizens across the organization, making dramatic improvements in the company’s strategic focus areas.  

In 2023, CEO Kaizens across Danaher operating companies focused on operational performance, inventory reduction, past-due backlog and on-time delivery – all complex challenges that directly impact customers. At the 2023 CEO Kaizen event with Cepheid in Solna, Sweden, the team focused on improving their material flow between factories, as well as within the production line, to ultimately reduce inventory. “This is what we do,” said Weidemanis, who participated in the 5-day event. “We get together and we attack an important problem for our customers or for our associates in a week – and we get it done in a week. In many cases, people in the kaizen event may start out not knowing each other that well. At the Solna event, my team was made up of people across all levels which created a great opportunity to build a strong culture that supports open and honest discussions about innovative solutions.”  

Danaher’s disciplined business approach is laser-focused on outcomes, and CEO Kaizens are no different.

The participating operating companies reported sustained and material improvements in inventory management, past-due backlog, and an increase in operational productivity. Here are two examples of the impressive results the teams achieved: 

  • Aldevron (Fargo, North Dakota) saw significant improvements in its Daily Management process—a part of the kaizen philosophy that focuses on small, daily improvements that collectively result in significant improvement—including a more than 50% reduction in lead time to deliver product.  
  • Beckman Coulter Life Sciences (Indianapolis, Indiana) reduced both inventory and past due backlog by over 35% and brought lead times below industry standard.   

Danaher’s embrace of kaizen allows leaders to do what they love – go to “gemba” the real place where work is done and make a difference by working alongside teams to solve problems.