Five S

Did you meet the 5S?

A 5S Program is a group of principles and activities that seek cleaner, organized, free of clog and safety hazard work areas.  The five steps of housekeeping transform the work areas into easy to workspaces because they contain visual instructions that promote the organization and make it easy to recognize when standards are not followed.  The program itself is one of the foundations of Lean Manufacturing.

5S ProcessThe following five steps promote standardization and facilitate continuous improvement:

  1. Sort –  The first step is about sorting all materials and tools between necessary and non-necessary to complete the task or work of that area.
  2. Set in Order – After we decided what we need on the area, on the second step a location and quantity is assigned for each one.  We need to have a place for everything and everything should be returned to its place after being used.
  3. Shine – The third step looks for a thorough cleaning and inspection.  The inspection is the more important part, the objective is to identify any possible source for the dirt and fix it.  Leaks, loose bolts, broken belts, previous quick fixes, and others are identified and fixed while cleaning.
  4. Standardize – During the fourth step, managers and supervisors need to create rules, procedures, and standards to ensure we keep doing the first three steps constantly.  Within those checklists and procedures, we need to establish what is needed, how is done, who is responsible and how often.  Rules to replenish materials, the maximum amount of work in process (WIP) is also determined on this step.
  5. Sustain – The last S is the most difficult one because involves discipline.  Managers and supervisors need to be persistent.  Employees participation is vital, without their ideas, help, and participation through every step of the way; the success of this program won’t be possible.

5S Events are one of my favorite Lean events because the steps are easy to follow and the program can be used anywhere, including home.  This program is clearly focused on the employees and their working conditions and as soon as they start working with it, they understand that.


The Beginning

Is Respect important for Lean Implementation?

People are the most important asset for lean implementation, people is the focus and is the media to make it happen.  Although problem-solving focused on the process and not the people, I believed the Lean Manufacturing focus is the people.  At the end of the day, we are trying to make the processes more efficient to create less effort, better use of resources and more safe from the operator point of view.  Also, we are looking to make customers happy giving them what they need at a reasonable price when they needed.

Nothing of these will happen is our lean journey is not driven by respect.  Respect to the people who are doing the processes, respect to our suppliers that provide the raw material to make it happen and respect to the customers.  At the plant level, while dealing with the early stages of implementation how we present each concept, how we make each question and how follow-up every initiative is very important.

During those early steps what we are trying to do is to sell an idea.  When your company leader is the one who is pursuing lean, it is a little less complicated because regardless they believe on lean or not, all managers at least do a minimum effort to make it happen.  When you are one of the few believers the journey is pretty complicated.

I found that the biggest challenge is with middle and senior managers.  Everybody lined up waiting for something to happen.  They are waiting for you to do everything in their departments:  training, follow-up, and advice; which is not a problem.  The problem is when you are training their people but they don’t even show up at the class or the events.  Active participation in events is a way to show respect.  Lean is about teamwork, what kind of teamwork we have if all company leaders are not rowing in the same direction?  Over and over, for me has been easier to sell the idea to the floor managers than to middle and senior managers.

We don’t need people who “agree” to follow the journey but in reality don’t do a bit of effort.  I would expect involvement, learning, asking, at least go to gemba and see!  We need doers, people who are not afraid to experiment day in day out with the lean concepts.  We need people who roll their sleeves and participate from the events with the operators.  We need leaders that walk the walk and show respect to those that are genuinely trying.


Five S

Never underestimate the power of a clean and organize workplace

From Lean Manufacturing, the one thing that sticks to me since the very first book that I read was the Five S Program.  I found fascinating how simple it was and make me realize that for years I underestimate the power of a clean and organize the workplace.  My former boss put on my hands the book Five Pillars of the Visual Workplace from Hiroyuki Hirano.   That book was my starting point, I really had no idea of what to do or how to implement the 5 S.  It was pretty clear for all of us that we need to do something different and that we needed soon.

I read the whole book and based on that information I created a training.  I also created a quick questionnaire to ask the employees how they felt about their work and the workplace; I wanted to know how they felt with the current status with the hope that their discomfort and/or dislikes will help me to sell an idea that would actually help them and not only the company.

The results of the poll confirm that the top three concerns of the employees were: safety, difficulty to get the materials and the general cleanliness of the area.  With the help of the human resources team, we put together a training schedule that included all the employees from all the departments.  I took me about a week to have about 90% of the employees trained but at the end, everybody was so interested in the program that it was pretty easy to sell the idea of doing a Red Tag campaign followed by a Big 5S Event.

With the event, we impacted several areas of the plant at the same time: production lines, some offices, maintenance shop, and the break room.  The same area employees completed all the work.  We stop the plant for two days to have the first three S’s of the program completed: Sort, Set in Order and Shine.  After the event, we work for some time on the standardization and the program to ensure housekeeping and organization sustainability.

A couple of months after the implementation we did another survey, the same questions from the first time brought a totally different outcome.  The employee’s attitude changed, the participation in training increased and the number of suggestions and ideas about how to improve the process.  The most amazing part was that the employees itself maintained the program alive and that happened just because it was beneficial for them.  Managers and supervisors were so thrilled by the results that work hard to keep the discipline.  They did their part doing audits and keeping a schedule for special Red Tags events as well as retraining whenever things got a little sloppy.

That was my first experience with a 5S implementation; it was also my very first learned lesson:  never underestimate the power of a clean and organized workplace!