When I first heard of 5S many years ago, the company leadership positioned this as a cleaning project and keeping the building “tour ready”. Unfortunately, this misconception is not all that unusual. Many times when a 5S program is launched, business leaders and the implementation team focus exclusively on the first three S’s (Sort, Set in order, and Shine). Often times the implementation teams tend to overlook Standardize and Sustain, only to see the implementation become a short-lived housekeeping program, rather than laying the foundation for a much broader lean implementation.
One thing is certain, by overlooking the final two S’s the company “cleaning” program will quickly fall by the wayside and they will be right back where they started within 3 – 6 months. To maintain the culture change necessary to make the improvements “stick”, it is necessary to develop and document the new standards for the area. For example, take a photo of the area when in compliance, then post the photo. The more visual controls the better, employees need to be able to quickly and easily see if areas are not in compliance.
In addition, some companies have met with success by not only posting photos of the area while in compliance, but they go so far as to post the photo of the employee responsible to ensure that the area is in compliance. This practice quickly creates individual ownership and pride for the area. In larger companies there is a side benefit, enabling employees to “match the faces to the names” of everyone in the organization.
Shadow boards are great simplistic examples of a visual control. For instance, when using a shadow board for tools, simply paint an outline of the tool(s) on the pegboard and hang the tool back in its location when the task is complete. Doing so will keep employees from wasting time searching for something that should be readily available.
Once you have established, documented, and posted the new standards, you will need to create a management system and culture to sustain these improvements. The leadership should do daily (or more frequent) Gemba walks. Take the opportunity to educate the staff on what is important to you and why it is important. For lean to be successful, a company will need a “teach down” approach. Install measures as and where appropriate. If an area is out of compliance with the standard, emphasize the importance and obtain a commitment on when the area will be back in compliance. Lead by example, demonstrate that the standard is important, and follow up to ensure adherence.
5S programs can either build a solid foundation for the remainder of your lean implementation or they can be a “flavor of the month” cleaning program, the choice is yours. Choose wisely.
Learn more about the author by accessing my LinkedIn profile at http://www.linkedin.com/in/roycewilliard
Post author: Royce Williard
Copyright 2009 The Williard Group