5S in Three Bullets

I was in a conversation today and we ended up boiling 5S down to three key points:

  • You have everything you need.
  • You need everything you have.
  • You can see everything clearly belongs where it is.

Of course at the next level, these statements are the standards you are continuously checking against.

Presumably we have cleared out everything else, leaving only what we thought was needed, and established visual controls to verify we have those things, and only those things, in the work area.

Then, as the work is done, the moment someone discovers something else is needed, THAT is the time to deal with the issue.

– Ask “Is this something we should need in the normal course of the work?”

If so, then you learned something that you didn’t know or didn’t remember when you first organized the area. Add that item, find a place for it, and establish a visual control. Right now.

If not, then “Why did we need it this time?”

What broke the normal pattern of work?

This is where 5S breaks down – when we don’t discriminate between something that is needed in the normal course of work, and something that is needed as an exception.

If we just “get it” and add it to the work area, then we normalize deviance and incrementally erode the process. If we ignore the issue, we add “getting this when it is needed” to the work cycle.

If, on the other hand, we seek to understand what broke the normal pattern and deal with the core issue, we have a shot at real kaizen. (It is perfectly OK to get what you need and keep it around as a temporary countermeasure. Just put it someplace where you will KNOW when you used it.)

The worst thing you can do is allow these small problems to accumulate and try to correct them en-mass as some kind of “corrective action.”

Kanban

Likewise, kanban can be expressed the same way. It is more dynamic, but is really answering the same questions in the context of materials.

 

Standard Work

If you paraphrase these key points to just about any other “tool of lean” then the purpose of surfacing problems and driving solution becomes apparent.

  • You are doing everything that is required.
  • Everything being done is required.
  • Everything being done clearly is part of the sequence.

Take a look at the other classic “tools of lean.” How would they fit into the same pattern?

 

5 thoughts to “5S in Three Bullets”

  1. Hi Mark-

    I don’t mean to sound high-handed or overly critical, so please take this comment in the spirit of continuous improvement.

    I don’t think you’ve summed up all 5 of the S’s in your three points. In fact, I think you only have the first two.

    The first S, sort, is summed up by your second bullet, and the first bullet also touches on part of the same.

    The second S, setting in order, is summed up by your third bullet. And the first bullet also influences this step heavily.

    But the other three S’s, sweep/shine, standardize, and sustain, are not well-stated by these points.

    For example, perhaps I have what I need and only what I need, and it’s all clearly laid out, but I’m standing in a pool of machine oil. Or my desk where I’m supposed to be working on documents is covered with coffee stains. You need that cleaning element of sweep/shine (and all of the benefits that go along with it, like ownership of the work area & machines, attentiveness to early warning signs, self respect, and others).

    And maybe right now I just finished organizing, so I have what I need and only what I need, but when the next shift comes in and takes over, the items I so painstakingly arranged get moved/borrowed/mixed up. You need to create a standard that locks the gains into place (at least until the next improvement).

    And maybe today I have what I need and only what I need and it’s all organized, but what about next week? What about next month? What about next year? You need to create a culture that sustains the gains, which is really a cultural challenge more than anything else. People are used to doing a “spring cleaning” once a year; attempting to sustain the gains day in and day out is a different challenge all together.

  2. I like your point about “normalize deviance” and how it would erode the process. We have a few processes here at the plant that deviate from the normal condition from time to time. But we try to standardize and keep the employees from thinking that deviation is normal. It is easy for people to think that it’s OK to be unorganized because the work “changes all the time”, when in actuality it does not.

    After 4 years of applying 5S at work I finally applied 5S to my home work shop. I build car models and dioramas. It’s a creative and very un-standardized process. My next project always deviates from my last project. However, most of the tools I use remain constant. Over the last few weeks I have applied 5S to my work bench. The tools and supplies I use frequently are organized and close at hand. The tools and supplies I use less frequently are further away. The tools I seldom use are in drawers and so forth. There is even stuff in the next room that I may use once or twice a year. After applying 5S I have noticed that now I find what I need very quickly and my hobby is more pleasurable!

  3. Shmuel,

    Yes, everything you mention is necessary. But no, Mark did not leave them out. He distilled them down to their fundamental, essential elements.

    “For example, perhaps I have what I need and only what I need, and it’s all clearly laid out, but I’m standing in a pool of machine oil.”
    In that case you have a pool of oil, something most definitely don’t need. (point 2)
    And you don’t have a clear, clean work zone with good traction, something you do need. (point 1)
    So you don’t actually have what you need and only what you need.

    “And maybe right now I just finished organizing, so I have what I need and only what I need, but when the next shift comes in and takes over, the items I so painstakingly arranged get moved/borrowed/mixed up. You need to create a standard that locks the gains into place (at least until the next improvement).”
    In other words, the next shift doesn’t have what they need in the way of a properly arrange work space (point 1) and neither of you have what you need in the way of a standard (points 2 & 3).

    “You need to create a culture that sustains the gains, which is really a cultural challenge more than anything else.”
    Yes, that is something you need (point 1). And until you have it, you don’t have what you need (point2).

    pc2

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