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Six Sigma, Kaizen, or Lean? What is the Difference?

Know your lean from you kanban and your muda from your methodology

Six Sigma, Kaizen, and Lean. You might have heard of them. People throw these terms around a lot nowadays, often interchangeably. But what do they mean? What makes them different? And are they so similar? Remember, each tool solves specific, specialized problems. This article will help you get to the bottom of this mystery so you can make the most of all three methodologies. That way, your company can eliminate waste, refine production, and increase efficiency. Achieving success is that simple!

Six Sigma

Six Sigma is a useful toolset that businesses use to minimize defects as well as inconsistency (AKA Mura). It comprises a range of devices and strategies by which to achieve his goal. When using Six Sigma, your team will leverage innovative statistical devices like Pareto charts and root cause analysis (RCA) to achieve quantifiable value goals. Like Lean manufacturing, Six Sigma teaches you to identify instances where a process requires correcting or changing. Six Sigma’s two main project methodologies are as follows:

  • DMAIC – This stands for: Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control.
  • DMADV – This stands for: Define, Measure, Analyze, Design, Verify.

DMAIC AND DMADV are similar, yes, as they are both based on W Edwards Deming’s Plan-Do-Study-Act cycle, but they are used for different purposes. With DMAIC, measurement is used about current performance of processes, while DMADV focuses more on customer needs. It is the final two steps of each tool in which they differ. Improve, and Control aims to determine potential ways of readjusting and controlling a process to greater effect, whereas Design and Verify deal with redesigning the process completely, to come closer to customer specifications and needs.

Learn More About DMAIC Steps

Kaizen

Kaizen is Japanese for “Good change.” For us, this is the best kind of change. It also means Continuous Improvement, a term you may have heard a lot about. Kaizen aims to improve all parts of a company through the standardization of production processes. Kaizen is a continuous action, rather than a particular state of being you must reach. It encourages creativity and ingenuity to change your company culture for the better, requiring, like Six Sigma, a team effort by which to solve problems of waste. The 3 Mus – Muda (wastes), Mura (defect/variation), and Muri (strain on staff and machinery) are imperative to understanding Kaizen. Kaizen uses small; incremental changes introduced gradually over a long period to eliminate waste and improve efficiency. Kaizen Training is require to be the master of Kaizen

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Lean

Lean by name, lean by nature. Like Kaizen, Lean methodology focuses on the elimination of wastes (AKA Muda) to increase efficiency and streamline or smooth a business’s production processes. This can be by way of removing none-value-adding stages in production, which contribute to waste and slow down production. The strategy originates from Henry Ford’s mass production assembly lines for the Ford Model T, coming into effect more than over a hundred years ago. Lean can be traced back to the concept of interchangeable parts used by Eli Whitney and Samuel Colt in their production of firearms but has evolved over time, culminating in the modern Toyota Production System.

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