The 5S

A Tracking Method for 5S Programs

By Jon Miller Updated on May 22nd, 2017

Audit checklist, with tick against “audit satisfactory”,

David asked:

I’m having a difficult time coming up with a tracking method for our 5S program. We are running a program with a scoring value but no real tracking method. Any suggestions?

We have to pause every time we hear the word “program” attached to 5S or any improvement tool. Too often the 5S program is a major pillar, if not the only effort, of a lean implementation. While we can argue that a stand alone 5S program is better than no 5S at all, we need understand how we are deploying 5S before we can track its success. If it is part of a larger more comprehensive effort to implement an operating system then there is no problem in running these programs to build the system.

Before we can give responsible suggestions on tracking methods for 5S, we need to answer a few questions:

1. What is the purpose of the 5S program? Why was the program started? Is it part of a long-term effort to implement lean? Or is it a program to support safety, quality, visual management or general cleanliness? The more well-defined the purpose of the 5S program the easier it will be to answer the following questions.

2. How do we measure success of the 5S program? Is it the 5S score? Is it cost savings associated with 5S? Correlations in improvements to all KPIs? Is it the number of areas 5S-ed? Number of teams active in daily 5S? The answer to this should be tightly linked to the first question.

3. Based on this, what are we trying to track? In other words, what will “good” look like? Are we aiming for a specific 5S score across the facility? Is it the brightness of the shine from the floor? Is it the level of engagement? Are we looking for evidence of sustained improvement?

The best way is to track just about anything is to go see the actual status. For a 5S program this may mean checking the neatness and organization of an area (the result) with periodic audits of how the tidying is done (the process). The most natural way to do this is to build the 5S check into the daily management routines of team leaders, supervisors and managers. Some call this leader standard work. Lacking leader standard work, teams, team leaders, logically defined zones, and standard work for processes it is very difficult to track, much less sustain, 5S.

The idea of 5S, as with all of the lean operating system, is to deliberately design the workplace and way of working. It’s not unlike observing that when you plan seeds in the ground they grow to become crops, and if you plant them in neat rows they are easier to harvest. Maybe I am making this too complicated and David was simply looking for examples of a 5S audit sheet or an electronic database for tracking the scores. What’s your view on tracking 5S performance?

  1. Chris Nicholls

    April 21, 2010 - 3:37 am

    Thanks David for your question and Jon for your very apropriate comments and guidance.
    We have used 5S as our basic standard from the begining 26 years ago then we only had 3S. It was necessary over the years to revisit our 5S in order to keep it alive useful and fresh.
    The purpose of our 5S scheme is three fold.
    To set the basic standard as this then forms the base line for Kaizen.
    To promote employee engagement and empower them to improve their own work environment.
    Improve visualisation of the workplace because to be able to manage abnormal situations first you need to be able to see them clearly and quickly.
    We do all the usual adudits and score areas against the standard. Each area score goes to make up the overall Company 5S monthly status.
    This year as a refresher we introduced the Five-A-Day Challenge as a method of tracking or checking the 5S condition in each work area. Every day the Teamleader walks around during the daily management routine and observes any issues with the condition against the standard. Together with the team he then has to put right 5 out-of-standard items every day.
    I thnk to answer is to track 5S yourself in the Gemba
    Best Regards

  2. Tim McMahon

    April 21, 2010 - 5:26 am

    I once had a manager ask me how to do 5S without auditing. I said “why”. He responded i don’t think I can get people to do that. I told him you can’t, you must change the behavior. I would say basically that you do need criteria to judge your performance. The criteria should be specific to the business and your need to doing 5S. You then need a way to judge your adherence to this standard. When it comes to sustaining the gains I have found that a layered audit process is effective. This involves people within the process doing checks daily and weekly, middle management weekly to monthly, and senior management monthly to quarterly. The levels and frequency can chnage based on your system but the idea is everyone is checking the system. This helps drive a culture of committment and habit.

  3. Steve Halpin

    April 21, 2010 - 2:30 pm

    Hi Jon,
    When working with clients on lean programs, some suggest 5s as an improvement project. Our view is that like any of the lean initiatives, 5s is one of many tools. The lean programme needs to start with clear objectives, a clear definition of value and good understanding of the business processes. In any improvement initiative, we are looking for some measure of success. If 5s clearly impacts our measure of success, then it may be an exercise worth doing early on.
    However, if in defining our value stream we realise that our process is unbalanced, carries too much inventory or has poor flow, we may wish to focus on the process first and then apply 5s to the re-designed process.
    Some teams decide on 5s as an improvement project. However, the business case and project goals can be very subjective. Ultimately, after the initial enthusiasm, the team can lose motivation as there is no clear measure of where they are going.
    What is your experience with 5s? Would you recommend starting a lean programme with 5s? What has and hasn’t worked in your organisation? What are the key challenges and issues?

  4. Pedro Monteiro

    April 22, 2010 - 2:22 am

    Hi all.
    We all agree that 5S is one of the key tools for lean implementation. At the beggining or mid way it is important.
    I’ve also used Layered Audit process but at a certain time we found out that it was better to keep things appart. The team leader was already auditing the workplace according to other issues and 5S had to be an independent one. Work Place Organization Audit: audits each S at a time and scores them. The final score is monitored every month and the graphic at the workcell’s “5S Point” the shows the performance. You need to brainstorm in order to get the “goal” and the “minimum” allowed in each audit. It depends on what items you’re auditing; common sense is a must, as usual.
    The key challenge, Steve, is of course making it work!
    Motivation and understanding are needed within the organization. Culture change needs to be worked out…
    I think we’ve made it! It’s running ok and people are really into it!

  5. sharma

    May 11, 2010 - 2:44 am

    Dear Jon,
    The tracking method depends on which stage of implementation of 5S you are in and the milestones you have set for the impelementation. Surprisingly the reader comments above do not answer David’s question of a tracking method. Frequent audits and reflection at the initial stage can be used to track the progress of 5S in the initial stage.
    Jon, your insight on a tracking “tool” for 5S will be helpful for all of us.

  6. Joseph

    May 16, 2010 - 8:48 am

    David. This is 2010 and we have put a man on the Moon.
    I think you are struggling with setting an unambiguous standard for the level of 5S that you want to accept. This level may rise as you get better at it. Put an “X” on the floor and take photo’s of the before and after. I think you want to keep the area looking like the after.
    Do 25 ? questions 5 on each of the 5S’s on a spread sheet. Next to each question write the Expectation for the audit level. Refer to the photo’s were they are relevent. Each question has one point that can be awarded if it is OK. You will score 0 to 25 points. ( Pick the number of questions to suit yourself ).
    On the RH side of your check sheet put an area for the person doing the check to write the reasons for failure. Next to this put a space for the Countermeasure to that failure. Next to the countermeasure put Responsibility : Timing : Status. Concern understood , Countermeasure ID’d , Countermeasure actioned , Action confirmed.
    Chart the results of the 25 questions as a %age 23 OK = 92%
    Chart the number of failure raised a stacked Block Chart will suffice. Make sure that you reference each block to the specific question that it represents. Failed Q3, Q12, Q21. Shade the Block chart to reflect Confirmed Countermeasure. The unshades areas are therfore still NOK.
    Get the supervisor of the area to initial the Audit sheet next to each reason for failure. Have the Managers Audit the general standards of the area. He/She must Counter-sign the Bar chart that is tracking the Failures.
    Get the area forman to comment on the OPEN ISSUES. If the foreman & Manager don’t bother then go to the Tea area and have a quiet cup of tea knowing that you can lead a horse to water but you can not make it drink.
    I hope this helps. If the area improves take new photo’s or if an area is always OK take a photo of another area that needs attention. Video’s of the Standard can also be of help. Most can be played on a PC or lap top on the shop floor.
    Not bad for a person with a 25 yard swimming certificate. Hey
    Do not take it upon your self to fix everything or do everything. If you go the system must still work.
    Some are born great, some aquire greatness & some have greatness thrust upon them. David. Make them do it.

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