I work for a courier company and have been implementing 5S for over a year. 5S standards have been established throughout the parcel sorting operation. However we are facing issues in sustaining the performance as shop floor personnel consider this as added work. They keep putting parcels and roller containers, trolleys etc. in each other's locations. Corporate Management is strongly committed to 5S but middle management tends to only pay lip service & just ignore non-standard conditions. Things fall into place after top management does their Gemba Walk & sends strong messages on the deviations found. Things begin to fall apart again in a matter of days and fresh effort is required to put things back in place. Company also has a monthly 5S rewards program where top few areas are recognized every month. All shop floor personnel and management are trained on 5S and have taken part in 5S events that set standards for their area. In spite of all this, it has been difficult to sustain performance. Has anyone faced a similar situation? Is there something which we may not be doing right? What more would we need to do to get shop floor management & personnel to buy into this program?

One major stumbling block has been getting the buy in of the Operations Manager. In public he mentions the need for good standards but in reality he hardly practices it & walks by when deviations from standards are seen. The Operations Director too is a great advocate of 5S and has personally led a 5S Kaizen event in his area to demonstrate leadership. I feel the Operations Manager on the other hand is setting a bad example an since he doesn't really care too much, the people below him also behave the same way. The key issue I believe is changing his mind-set & behaviour. Appreciate any ideas on how to get him around. I have tried speaking to him, have showed him the benefits etc.. To him though my standards are too high. Problem is his standards are too low & he is only doing things half heartedly because the Operations Director sees great value in the program.

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Comment by sascha pioske on June 13, 2013 at 4:12pm

Hello Sandeep,

Excellent to hear that you have a template for LSW and that different levels of leadership are accountable for checking it.  I know 20% does not sound like much, but it is a start, now my next question would be what percentage of compliance are you looking to achieve?  100% would be ideal, but maybe there are some steps your organization can take to increase engagement, ie. simplifying the audits, ensuring that the elements are important to the ops. manager.  Open dialogue is key, but not necessarily easy if trust has not been established amongst leadership.  

I can not prescribe a magic pill because I have not observed your organization's leadership, culture, 5S and all other elements that makeup a continuous improvement organization is unique and challenging.   You mentioned that the operations manager finds "your" standards too high.  I see that one obstacle is to determine what the organizations standard should be based on building consensus among leaders. The challenge is how do you make the operations manager own his teams' 5S.

Im not a big fan of LSW being uploaded on servers because it does not make accountability visual.  We have had greater success when accountability is visual for all to see when you walk to each department.  Problems can easily hide in a computer.  I think you have a lot of opportunity in improving your LSW. 

One final thought is that if you operations managers continue to fall back maybe they are not in the right roles, but that determination needs to be made by the Director in how he does his performance reviews and reflect on how he communicates his/her objectives and ensure that your 5S is not in conflict with your business objectives.

Good luck and keep experimenting.



Comment by Sandeep Mohan on June 8, 2013 at 12:27pm

Hi Sascha:


We do have a LSW template with list of activities to be performed by all levels of leadership.  This also includes shop floor level personnel. Each manager is supposed to check off items on the LSW template & also audit the LSW compliance of his/her sub ordinate. Unfortunately the compliance level for this is poor too (only 20% of the checklists get updated). The LSW template is placed on the server so everyone can easily access. Supervisor can also check if subordinates are performing their activities real time.

Comment by sascha pioske on June 6, 2013 at 11:39am

Hello Sandeep,


I think you have a key component in place at your organization as far as sustaning 5S when your top management does their Gemba walks.  My question would be how often do they do them?  Do they practise Leader Standardized work (LSW)?  Are the activities that are carried out in their LSW visible through visual management?  Does every leader in the organization have a LSW routine that they follow that is connected to eachother?


For example, a line leader’s LSW could be a daily routine where he observes how many parcels are out of place and correct them with the operators (Problem solving in the moment) document visually if parcels were out of place, simply Yes/NO, the operations manager would do a walk once week to observe if parcels are out of place and coach the line leader to identify why parcels are continuing to be out place by engaging the workforce (PDCA) and visually post his findings.  The Director would do his LSW once a month and verify each of the leaders are following their LSW and coach the operations manager (PDCA) and the Director would visually indicate if his LSW was completed as well.


I hope this helps, I have more thoughts, but would like to keep it brief.




Comment by Mike McCarthy on June 6, 2013 at 11:24am
Sandeep, for more ideas on Sustaining, see my book Sustain Your Gains, available here at the5Sstore. -Mike

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