Is Kaizen an alternative for Lean Six Sigma?

Facilities that are looking into ways to make improvements they will undoubtedly run into a lot of different options, which can lead to confusion. Two of the most common terms used in this field are Lean Six Sigma and Kaizen. At first glance, many people think of Kaizen as an alternative to Lean, or even a competing strategy. The fact is, however, that they are very complementary, and when done properly, Kaizen can actually fit in as a part of a Lean Six Sigma strategy.

What is Kaizen

To understand how this works, one must first understand what exactly Kaizen is. Kaizen is a Japanese term that means ‘continuous improvement.’ One of the core concepts of Lean is also continuous improvement. Once you see this, it is easy to see how the two systems can, and should, work together for the betterment of a manufacturing facility.

Kaizen in Lean

Kaizen is an excellent set of strategies that can be used to identify problem areas, and then work to fix them in the workplace. This is typically done using Kaizen events, which allow a team of people to perform the necessary steps to find the root cause of any type of problem, propose a solution, and finally implement this solution.

Along with this process the team will need to track how the current system work so they can accurately compare it to the way things are done after the Kaizen event is completed. If they get the desired results, the event will be a success and the team can begin looking into the next issues to fix. If they don’t get the desired or expected results, they simply analyze the new data they have and propose new solutions. This circular process fits in perfectly with the Lean methodologies and can be used to eliminate waste in any facility.

To put it simply, Kaizen is certainly not an alternative to Lean Six Sigma, but instead it should be looked at as a tool that can be used within Lean facilities. Lean Six Sigma can provide the overall outline of how a facility should work toward waste elimination, and Kaizen can be the specific method by which these goals are carried out.


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Additional Resources

5S Lean Guide
Lean Manufacturing Powerpoint
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