One of the toughest things that a kaizen consultant has to do is to tear down the results of past kaizens. This is hard because people develop a sense of ownership over the status quo, no matter how bad, and when they have worked to make it significantly better through kaizen there can be a reluctance to break it apart and start over. Yet that is what kaizen is all about so that is what we do.
Take 5S for example. We see so many shadow boards or neatly arranged tools as examples of 5S. It is easy to copy what you see in a book or during a factory tour of a lean plant and do the same in your own work area. These lean tools and skills don’t live in isolation however, they are part of a system and without understanding the thinking behind the tools, they may not live at all. Pretty does not equal economical when it comes to 5S.
The purpose of 5S is to make abnormality immediately obvious. If one of the drivers of lean is eliminating waste, 5S is one of the practices that helps make waste and divergence from the standard visible. When waste or problems become visible we can do something about them. The 5S also do improve safety, quality and cut cost by getting rid of waste. In particular 5S is good for getting rid of motion waste. So when we see a bloom of shadow boards in a factory and the resulting action of people walking back and forth to these shadow boards, sometimes we need to gently tear down this notion of 5S and replace it with one more centered on motion economy rather than form.
The Motion Economy Chart is something we put together to that end. It is a very simple radar chart. Enter values from 1 to 5 in the yellow highlighted section and a radar chart will display. The definitions of the categories are somewhat subjective and each company and each process should define what is “ideal” for their process in terms of time to retrieve. A pit crew of an F-1 racing team would probably rate their times in tenths of seconds, where seconds would suffice for most others.
The Motion Economy Chart is useful as a check in the effectiveness of your 5S efforts. If you’re struggling with “shadow boards as 5S” or in need of a gentle way to tear down fixed ideas of what a workplace organization means in a lean workplace, hand out this chart and challenge people to further kaizen the economy of their motions.