Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored. ~Aldous Huxley
A key principle critical for the continuous improvement success is to make problems visible. You cannot fix what you cannot see, that is why the 5S program is the foundation of the Lean effort. Making problems visible is easier said than done.
I remembered those days when our warehouse was full and there was no space for more finished goods. Sales were slow but we were working overtime to produce enough cases to meet the daily cases per day target. Unevenness in production that is not related to the customer’s needs is Mura, a type of waste.
We did not practice any visual management in the warehouse area. We did not have any type of visual aids other than the traditional floor marks to indicate the lanes. The warehouse was the home of finished goods, rework product, employee sales and sometimes when there was no space on the designated area, quality held products. Because there was no designated area for each of these categories of product, forklift driver come with pallets and left them on the first available space.
Living with this chaos was part of their daily work, nobody bothered anymore and that was the real problem. When we asked to stop production in the area for one day to do a 5S event our boss did not let us do it. When you have to convince your boss that we need to make the problems so obvious that everybody will see them you know something is really bad.
It took some time to get him into walking with us the area while explaining the risks of our current situation, why none of our employees believed leaving pallets on the first empty spot was wrong and the benefits of establishing clear areas for each category with the maximum level of materials like wooden pallets and wrap film. When we finished our walk-through he understood and we did our event. Since then, every time something is out-of-place, everybody knows and the responsible person fixes it. Problems do not go away miraculously or stop just because we ignore them.