BT's original Phonecards used optical technology to make telephone calls from cardphone payphones and were produced by Swiss company Landis & Gyr. This page features the last ever optical cards that were produced by Landis & Gyr for British Telecom. Named Kaizen, the three card set featured the same design, but within the set, the first card featured the word 'KAIZEN' in bronze, the second in silver and third in gold.
The article below was written by Stanley Cranworth appeared in the TeleCard Collector International magazine May 1997 (as pictured right). Stanley who also wrote the latest two editions of UK telephone card catalogues which along with BT Phonecards, also feature Mercurycards, Paytelco, and New World Payphones telephone cards.
To buy a copy of either of the latest two UK telephone card catalogues click here.
Just as we thought we had seen the last of the BT optical cards, Landis & Gyr commissioned a set of three new cards known as the 'Kaizen Set'. Special permission to produce these cards had to be sought from BT since the order books for opticals had effectively closed.
Pictured right - The Bronze card (BTP430) - the first card in a set three Kaizen cards, awarded internally to UK employees of Landis & Gyr for good ideas.
Kaizen is a concept popularised by the Japanese whereby employees are encouraged to implement their own ideas for making their own working processes and procedures more efficient.
The significance of the idea is not important, since the principle is one of continuous improvement in small steps. Should the idea prove to be viable and of possible benefit to the overall running of the organisation, management is informed and the idea put into general practice.
The word Kaizen itself is derived from the Japanese 'KAI' meaning change and 'ZEN' meaning good. I am not sure to what tangible extent the Japanese award any such employee, but Landis & Gyr have recently implemented a scheme of presenting any of their staff who come up with a good idea one of the customised BT cards, subject to the approval of a specially formed committee.
Pictured left - The Silver card (BTP431) - the second card in a set three Kaizen cards, awarded internally to UK employees of Landis & Gyr for good ideas and suggestions.
In practice, an employee who feels that his idea is worthy of award fills in an evaluation form which is assessed by the committee. If the idea is judged to be worthwhile, the employee is given a bronze card in a special folder. This however is not the end since there is space in the folder for a further two cards. Four more qualifying 'ideas' will earn a Silver Card and another five (total of ten) will earn the ultimate gold card (pictured below).
Pictured above - The Gold card - the third and final card in a set three Kaizen cards, awarded internally to employees of the Landis & Gyr factory, Acton, London, UK for good ideas.
Thus there is an incentive to promote ongoing change for the better, and as is back printed on each of the cards: To be continued......
Pictured above - The reverse of each card was printed with the words "To be continued......." including the final gold card.
The following is an extract of an article written by Paul May of Landis & Gyr which was published in a internal newspaper:
"Kaizen is a tool which helps to improve our processes and procedures, which will improve our products and service in terms of cost and quality. This will then improve our image to our existing and potential customers and thus encourage them to place more orders with us. This will provide the revenue to increase our profits and satisfy our shareholders. If we satisfy our shareholders, then we will have a job which will help pay our bills!! This should satisfy us. Can you see how it is all connected?"
Pictured right - The front cover to the special presentation folder in which the three cards could be collected and displayed.
"We do not expect our people to come up with implemented ideas without some form of thank you or other reward and not all will be motivated to the same level initially, so some form of incentive is needed. Having a job is one incentive. Feeling proud of your workplace and of a job well done is another. Being thanked for your efforts also helps, so in order to encourage you more we will be awarding specially designed phonecards to those people who come up with ideas and have implemented them."
"These ideas should be simple, easy to implement, not too costly and must be related to your own workplace (winging about others will not count!). It is accepted that in some cases you may require the help of Site Services, Operational Engineering or another department in order to implement your idea(s).".
The cards themselves were printed by Optim on 10 unit blanks supplied by Landis & Gyr in Switzerland*. Production quantities are as follows along with the telephone card catalogue reference number for each card.
BTP430 Bronze - 250
BTP431 Silver - 200
BTP432 Gold - 50
Pictured above - Inside the Kaizen folder complete with all three BT Phonecards - click for a larger view.
This set of cards has surely ranked amongst the most difficult for collectors to obtain due to the low print quantities and the manner in which the cards were distributed.
Special thanks to Stanley Cranworth who originally wrote the article in 1997, with the help and co-operation in the preparation by Landis & Gyr at the time. Further information of BT optical cards can be found in WPC UK Catalogue 1.
Were you a Landis & Gyr employee that was awarded one or more of the Kaizen BT Phonecards? Please contact me and share your story of how you earned your Kaizen bronze, silver or gold card(s).
Last updated: 24th May 2016
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