© 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited.Purpose: With the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, the production shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), such as surgical masks, has become increasingly significant. It is vital to quickly provide high-quality, hygienic PPE during pandemic periods. This comprehensive case study aims to confirm that Kaizen and 5S applications reduce wastage rates and stoppages, which as a result, created a more efficient and sustainable workplace in a small–mediumenterprise (SME) producing PPE in Turkey. Design/methodology/approach: The method for this case is discussed with the help of a flowchart using the DMAIC cycle: D-define, M-measure, A-analyse, I-improve and C-control. Findings: The total stoppages due to fishing line, gripper, piston and yarn welding have decreased by approximately 42.4%. As a result of eliminating wasted time and reduced changeovers, a total of 5,502 min have been saved per month. This increased production of approximately 10.55% per month, led to an addition of 506,184 units. Originality/value: The use of lean manufacturing (LM), Six Sigma, Lean Six Sigma and continuous improvement methodologies are not common in textile SMEs. Based on the current literature reviewed, to the best of the authors’ knowledge, this is the first comprehensive case study that combines statistical tools, such as hypothesis tests and LM practices, in the production process for a PPE company operating as a textile SME.