Are Kaizen and Six Sigma good together?

Sometimes when choosing a quality management system we find a wide number of systems, all of them are usually good, having both advantages and disadvantages that come with it. It is our mission as managers to choose the best system for our company, as it can define the success of the production process and this success will directly affect our income, a better result in the production process will generate more income. Choosing a system may be a difficult task, but if you investigate and have a clear view of the needs and strengths of your company you should be able to find the system for you. I personally recommend either Kaizen, Just in time production or Six Sigma, as they have proven to be amazing systems, what many don’t know or don’t take into account is that these systems don’t have to be used separately, they can be used together and can even give better results than a system alone. Today I will go through a popular combination, Six Sigma and Kaizen and how these two systems are compatible and have great synergy.

First we must know what is Kaizen, Kaizen is a not only a system but a philosophy, it is based in the continuous improvement to and through all the aspects of our lives. Kaizen can be applied to our companies to improve not only the production process but also other areas like marketing, logistics or even management itself. Kaizen tries to eliminate waste by enhancing standard activities, it is a way of improving without sacrificing work conditions, as it tries to improve them and the relations between employees.

By understanding both Kaizen and Six Sigma, you will see how compatible both systems are. Kaizen works through seven steps that are the base for all the improvement process, some of these steps include replacing conventional ideas with fresh innovative ones, analyze critically correct practices and find flaws, think ways of making stuff happen not just dismissing new ideas, avoid making excuses and work to get thing done, take into account that even a small solution to a problem might be enough as find a perfect one may take a lot of time, time in which you could make smaller improvements. Kaizen tries to make improvements integrally, in areas such as quality, cost, delivery, management and safety, all of which are both important for the quality of the products and the success of the company, as they can define the income of it.

Asesoramiento para Empleados_david kiger_kaizen and six sigma
Image courtesy of EOI Escuela de Organización Industrial at Flickr.com

To implement Kaizen in a company is important to have the participation of everyone in the process making them think of work in different terms, taking into account the actual state of the process, what is the desired results of implementing Kaizen and how we should approach the problems and find solutions for the aspects that need improvement. You would need to encourage and train employees, this way they will be both capable and ready to make improvements and this will help the overall results of the company. Try educating all the employees and associates in what is good and bad for the Kaizen process, this way through cooperation the Kaizen system will give amazing results.

Now we will explore how Kaizen and Six Sigma work together and talk about some examples that have shown how both systems work together. Something that may affect the success of Six Sigma alone the fact that it lacks two important characteristics, small improvements and constant maintenance. This means that even having a big breakthrough in the start of the Six Sigma process the effectiveness of the system will decay over time due to the degradation and lack of maintenance. Kaizen solves this issues easily as it generates small improvements during all the process, this way even when there is not an increased effort in improving the process the success will not decay, instead it will avoid the degradation of it and make it a more steady process.

For example, in a four-wheeler company, a manager after developing a Six Sigma process the process of inspecting samples would last about eight hours, compared to the 24 hours it took before the process. He later passed the management to a group of employees that implemented a Kaizen system, this gave place to another improvement as they found and easier, faster and more economical way of measuring the turning radius of the wheels. This big improvements with the help of the smaller ones, helped keep the process even more effective showing how well these systems work together.

Remember to follow me on Twitter as David Kiger @david_kiger, I post constant updates on business and management that may be useful for you and your company. Also if you liked the idea of Kaizen and want to read some more about it you should check this other article about five Kaizen principles that will help your company’s productivity.

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