What You May be Missing About 5S

Paul left a couple of comments recently that caught my attention:

HELP! My company has been “attempting” 5s for several years now,and have recently begun rolling it out once again after stopping it a few years back. My problem is this: We seem totally focused on painting everything from walls to floors, and thought this may look pretty, this isn’t my understanding of a full 5s. Brainstorming isn’t done properly so I see lots of errors in processes etc. S.O.Ps aren’t done yet management tell me we’re doing well because the place looks nice. I thought 5s was about eliminating waste and improving efficiency and quality? Maybe I’m missing something?

Well Paul, the good news is that at some point your management will run out of floors and walls to paint. The bad news, as you suspect, is that you are not practicing 5S. The fact that your organization tried 5S, gave it up and are picking it back up again is a good sign. Provided it’s not just a case of new management coming in and launching another flavor of the month, this demonstrates continuous improvement on the part of the management.

There are many free articles online on 5S you can use to educate your management, including 5S video available with free subscription. Some questions you might wish to raise with your management as you work with 5S:

1. Why did we stop our past 5S efforts?Which of those causes still exist? What have we learned from the success or failure of our past 5S effort?

2. How stable are our processes? How can we use 5S to create stability? How is the lack of 5S affecting material availability? Product quality? Equipment availability? Productivity?

3. How standardized are our processes? How quickly and easily can we access our standards? How up to date are they?

4. How can we use 5S to simplify and improve our processes? Where can we use visual systems to highlight abnormalities?

5. Why are we doing 5S again? Please remind us.

In fact, if you can find a free brush and can you may even want to write these questions on the wall in paint…

2 Comments

  1. Tim McMahon

    March 11, 2010 - 5:07 pm

    Jon, I had the same thought you did with number 5. What is the problem you have that you want to use 5S to solve? Maybe the time is not right to start there. If getting back to 5S and workplace organization is important you may find it usefull to benchmark other facilities where you can learn from others. You may find this resource helpful as well http://leanjourneytruenorth.blogspot.com/2010/01/new-5s-dvd-to-get-you-focused-on.html
    There must be purpose in what we do. Doing something just to say we did it is not helping anyone. Lean is about problem solving and learning how best to solve them.

  2. Tom Southworth

    March 11, 2010 - 5:20 pm

    Tim, ditto your comments on Jon’s point #5. Before I had even starting reading Jon’s reply my very first thought, after reading Paul’s post, was “what’s the problem that the company is looking to solve?”