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Fresh Approach, Lasting Benefits for Business in Laos as Senior Volunteer from Japan Bids Vientiane a Fond Farewell

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An ever-growing passion for order and cleanliness is paying dividends as enterprises in Laos note the benefits from adopting and adapting approaches long seen as a key to continuous improvement of businesses from Japan to the world known as Kaizen .Vientiane may be a long way from France’s Beaujolais and Burgundy or even Australia’s Barossa, but the best of old and new world wines from such storied regions and beyond can be found neatly aligned in a showroom by the distinctive stupa That Dam in the Lao capital.

Out the back, the clean, orderly stockroom of the Phonesavanh Import-Export Company appears to present the very model of efficiency for a successful small to medium enterprise in Laos.

It was not always this way, as company founder and director Vansom Vilivong can now proudly attest.

There was once a time when both he and his staff struggled to traverse the stockroom as bottlenecks and backlogs built up amidst a lack of systematic approach.

Meanwhile in the office and elsewhere, less visible inefficiencies were also proving barriers to best practice.

A solution was found in Kaizen . Developed and popularised by businesses and firms from Japan and since adopted in many places across the world, Kaizen is a systematic approach that seeks to continually streamline and optimise processes with positive results in terms of productivity, profitability as well as workplace health and morale.

Translating to English as improvement, the Japanese term Kaizen has been likened to philosophical practice, albeit one with very practical applications and ramifications for improved business performance through cost savings and efficiencies.

A well-recognised aspect of this approach is the so-called 5S (Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardise, Sustain).

Now utilising these approaches, changes for the better at Phonesavanh Import-Export Company and related business reflect the management and staff’s willingness to develop and embrace systematic improvement with benefits blossoming and not only for the bottom line.

Helping them get there has been Yokohama native Hiroshi Ishidera, 69, one of the 66 volunteers currently dispatched to the Lao PDR by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

An experienced and passionate advocate for Kaizen and the 5S approach in his long career with Asahi Glass Company, Ishidera has since dedicated two years of his post-retirement as a JICA Senior Volunteer, to share the benefits of the approach to three selected small and medium enterprises, hoping to create models from which others in Laos may learn and prosper.

Ishidera has been in Laos since late 2014 to offer insights and expertise on the use of Kaizen and the 5S principles and the development of quality management systems in an advisory capacity in cooperation with the country’s Department of Small and Medium Enterprise Promotion (DOSMEP).

He was also tasked with providing advice on 5S and Kaizen and disseminating ISO9001 and related quality management systems to a select group of three model enterprises.

Working closely with counterparts, he was able to identify various challenges, with accurate data collection and utilisation, business planning and human resource capacity and availability chiefly among them.

Providing support and encouragement and advice in the appropriate way for benefit of all stakeholders, Ishidera’s efforts have included catalysing change through a mix of enthusiasm and expertise, delivered in a professional and affable manner and with respect for Lao culture.

Phonesavanh Import -Export Company and Veunkham Salt Company have adopted Kaizen and the 5S principles and with the guidance of Ishidera have been able to establish Quality Management Systems (QMS). A third firm, Daosavanh Garment Company, remains engaged in the process of establishing QMS.

In Phonesavanh founder/director Vansom he has found a particularly strong advocate.

Speaking with interpretation by daughter and manager Thonekam, Vansom expressed his thoughts on the use and the prospects for Kaizen , 5S and Quality Management Systems in Laos to increase competitiveness as the country welcomes increased challenges and opportunities via regional economic integration in the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC).

5S is an excellent tool for improving quality, as we can already see in parts of ASEAN, such as an advanced economy like Singapore. Every industry in the country can apply 5S, if so the country will become more developed and civilised, Mr. Vansom said.

Since introducing 5S housekeeping practice in our organisation, the workplace has been more organised, cleaner. Everything looks tidy and organised.

5S is a basic tool to improve productivity so everyone must be involved in the implementation.

Staff are more motivated and have greater desire to work. Together we work more productively.

The approach is even rubbing off on some high profile customers who have taken note of the prominent display of quality control reminders for the benefit of staff and management.

Vansom recounts a tale involving a VIP guest to the adjoining That Dam Wine Bar & Restaurant in the form of a provincial vice governor.

Upon his return from the washroom, the vice-governor shared with assembled staff a photo taken of the 5S notice.

When we go back to our province we should practice Kaizen and 5S as well, he happily recounts the vice- governor as instructing officials.

 

Source: Vientiane Times