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The Kaizen Philosophy

Sep 16, 2008
Kaizen aims at small improvements that involve the ongoing efforts of everyone. These small improvements over a period of time produce bigger effects than the big project approach.

Six Sigma and Kaizen

Kaizen is not about changing the basic system; it is aimed at optimizing the existing system. The approach promotes learning, building capabilities and improving processes through constant study to exploit improvement opportunities. The controls are maintained by following the standard operating procedures (SOPs). When the improvements are done, the SOPs are changed accordingly. All levels of management are involved in Kaizen.

However, Kaizen does not cover drastic changes or innovations - and that is where Six Sigma comes into picture. It is a common notion that Lean and Six Sigma are not alternative options to each other. However, Lean combined with Kaizen can be the most effective in initial streamlining and improvement of the business process.

In this case, Six Sigma will be required to address variations and quality issues, just as Lean helps eliminate waste. Kaizen events are undertaken as a part of the Lean manufacturing process. They both start off with a mission statement, a well-defined objective and start and end points for the achievement of results.

Kaizen projects are not a long and drawn-out; they are often limited to a short period of time. They are a perfect part of the Lean manufacturing process, as the model followed is that of PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act). Kaizen events can be carried out to continuously eliminate waste and improve the value of the process. Thus, if properly planned Kaizen events are undertaken in a Six Sigma project, they can help achieve great results.

The problem with Kaizen events is that they bring about changes, but they are made quickly to accommodate the time span of the event. Root causes of such problems may not have been analyzed thoroughly so as to optimize results. This is where the combination of Six Sigma and Kaizen can prove to be useful.

By integrating the Kaizen event into Six Sigma projects, certain changes can be brought about quickly, with a sound and supported Six Sigma approach towards the problem area. Improvements can be made with Kaizen in events, such as team efforts addressing root causes based on data collected in the Six Sigma project flow.

For example, let us take a Six Sigma project that a bank undertakes to improve sales volume from walk-in customers. Using Six Sigma tools, various marketing methods and their results can be analyzed to determine the effect they are having on the various customer demographics. The Kaizen event may be undertaken for a short period of time to find which method is the best in the given situation. The one that shows results may be taken up for further implementation.

Combining Six Sigma, Lean and Kaizen help in bringing about great improvements. For continual improvement, the utility of Kaizen in Lean Six Sigma projects can be profitable. It would be a complete approach to problem solving, rather than the use of a single tool like Kaizen.
About the Author
Tony Jacowski is a quality analyst for The MBA Journal. Aveta Solution's Six Sigma Online offers online six sigma training and certification classes for six sigma professionals including, lean six sigma, black belts, green belts, and yellow belts.
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