I work in the Pharmaceutical industry, and we have been working with teams to implement 5S in our production suites.  Some suites have been successfully sustaining 5S and have maintained their work areas in excellent condition for over a year, others are still struggling to fully implement the program. 

My question applies to those suites that have been sustaining 5S for some time.  Throughout the program, area SMEs (subject matter experts) have perfomed weekly audits using our "5S Scorecard".  Some areas are now requesting the flexibility to decrease the frequency  with which they audit their areas (and perform some of the other routine tasks associated with the program) because they feel that 5S is part of the culture and will continue to "work", even with less time devoted to it.  As our program leader, I am trying to find the right response which will serve the program as a whole.  My instinctive reaction to this request is "you need to keep auditing weekly so and the suite condition does not deteriorate for lack of focus".  But I recognize that from their perspective, this activity is excessively time consuming at this point - their priority is getting the product out the door.  I need to find the right balance ....

My apologies for the long introduction, but I want to present the situation fully ..once 5S is part of the culture, is it OK to back off on some of the day to day grind?  Can success continue to be sustained that way?  What audit frequency is appropriate under these circumstances?  Any input would be welcome, I'm sure there are places out there that have already crossed this bridge!

Lorraine Payson

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Hi Lorraine,

Sorry for the delayed response. Congratulations on having areas that have successfully incorporated 5S into their culture. That's not easy to do and those included should be commended. I do think it is ok to move those areas out to a bi-weekly audit schedule. It shows good faith in that you trust and support them.


On another note, are you taping these successful members to get their input and figure out why the other areas are not doing so well?


Thank you


Dave Visco

5S Best Practices

Hi Dave,

Thanks for the response, I do appreciate the objective input!  Your answer is pretty much in line with my current thinking, however the areas in question are looking for more like a quarterly audit.  Inadvisable, in my opinion, but I have no authority to dictate what they do.  My hope is to have a rational discussion with them and come to an agreement on how to move forward. 


As for your follow-up question, it is pretty well-recognized that a major contributing factor has been a lack of managment support.  Some of it is also due to significant resistance at lower levels (not being addressed by management), and simply to "having too much else to do".  It's a mixed bag ...


Thanks for hosting this forum, it's nice to have a place to go for advice and thoughtful feedback.


Lorraine Payson

Hi Lorraine,

I've heard some consultants suggest quarterly is often enough however I disagree. I'm with you that monthly is the maximum time that should go between audits. Quarterly is so far out that they could just "clean up" as the audit is getting near. Moreover, too many bad habits could fall into place across three months.


Without fail, lack of management support is the #1 culprit with regards to inconsistent results like you're explaining. Unfortunately, I see it all too often. Frustrating for sure for you.


Any chance of putting together a quick list of where 5S has benefited those "superstar" areas and present it to management so they can really see what they're missing?


Good luck and keep the faith


David Visco

5S Best Practices

That is a good suggestion, Dave.  I will try to do that ... meanwhile, I keep plugging away!


Hello Lorraine and Dave,

We had the same questions and found a simple and fast tool to help out: an iphone application!  We wrote a short blog on our findings: iphone 5S Audit

For us, it made weekly audits more manageable again.



Marie, thank you very much for sharing that.  It's a great use of technology to help solve this persistent problem!  I will take the suggestion back to the stakeholders hear and see if they are willing to investigate the potential.



You're welcome Lorraine



on this thread, could someone explain the audit process being used? by whom and when? is the results posted and tracked over the pasts months?

Hi Michael,

The audit is a frequent check to ensure that the area is following/applying 5S at all times.  It is typically done on a weekly basis, at least during the early stages of 5S implementation.  There are different philosophies regarding who should do the audit ... some say it should be a management person, others say it should be a local Subject Matter Expert (SME).  At my company, we have the department/unit SME do the formal audit every week, but we also encourage managers to do walkthroughs.  Audit results are posted in the area, and we built a tool that allows us to  track performance over time and compare areas against each other, so the SME also enters the results into our database.  I can generate a quarterly report for managers that shows the performance of all of the areas and allows us to identify places that are lagging or struggling.

The audit tool can take many forms ... in our case, it is a 5x5 grid, with one column dedicated to each of the 5S process "steps".  Performance for each component (Sort, Set in Order, Shine etc) is ranked by the SME during the audit (range 1-5 points).  A score of "1" means that the team is really just beginning to apply this principle in the area - they have a fair amount of work to do to get the process implemented fully.  A score of "5" means that the team is not only sustaining a high level of adherence for that component, but is also actively looking for ways to improve their performance.  So the maximum score for any single audit is 25 (5 columns, maximum score of 5 in each column). 


Hope that answers your questions!



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