There's more to 5S than tape and markers

I found this on the Internet. Interesting perspective.


I see it time and time again.  Someone hears that 5S is the best thing since sliced bread, and they decide their plant or office needs to be 5S’d.  People actually say stuff like that.  Anytime I get the opportunity I ask them why their doing it.  And you know what, about 85% have no idea, 14% say it will save money, and the other 1% gets it.  Here’s how you effectively implement 5S in a way that drives performance and adds value.

Identify a Need for 5S Before You Start Implementing

Most people want to do 5S (whatever that means) because their plant or office is a mess.  They think it’s an organization exercise.  That totally misses the point.  Think about this for a second.  If you have a messy office, but know exactly where everything is and the clutter doesn’t add waste, should you really focus your 5S efforts there to start?  Take this example on the other hand.  You have a receptionist that constantly needs the same 5 tools.  A stapler, computer, printer, fax machine, telephone.  She spends 3 hours a day walking to the fax machine and printer, and shares a stapler with the person beside her.  Doesn’t it make more sense to 5S this area?  What would probably happen is that she’d end up with a dedicated fax/printer that was within her reach, she’d get her own stapler, and her productivity would improve exponentially.

That’s how you strategically implement 5S.  Don’t get me wrong, when it’s done right it fixes all those organization issues you have as well.  But that’s not where you should start.  Start by solving problems and a magical thing happens.  People start to understand why 5S is important.  They’ll start to realize that their job is much easier when their tools are right next to their work area.  They’ll notice that labels actually matter when you actually put stuff where it goes, and they get agitated when people don’t put things where they belong.  That’s when you know you’re 5S program is heading in the right direction.

Everyone Wants To Impress The Boss

The person in charge usually doesn’t have clue why 5S is important, because he’s never been educated.  Someone told them about how great it makes the plant look, and how it makes everything easier to find, and like any reasonable human being they got interested.  So they probably read a book or searched the internet, and discovered that 5S is really simple.  Then they tell their managers that they need to have their areas 5S’d by such and such date, and there will be audits done to check compliance.  So a mad dash happens, the painters come in to put squares on the floor, $100,000 of equipment you still need goes in the trash can.  Your entire department thinks you’re crazy.  But when your boss comes by and sees that things look neat and tidy, he praises a job well done.

If that sounds familiar, here’s what you need to do immediately.  Sit down with your boss and explain that all of that stuff you’re doing isn’t important.  The real value in 5S is using it to solve actual problems people are having.  And when that happens a few times, the program catches like wildfire.  And the best part is since the people that it actually impacts see the value in it; it just becomes part of the way your plant operates.  You don’t really have to manage it at all.  Oh, and don’t forget to mention that when you use it to solve problems, by default you improve performance.  Then take a step back and do things the right way.  Follow the culture change steps.  If you do this, you’ll be one of a very select number of operations that actually get the meaning of 5S and use it to its fullest potential.


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