I had another opportunity today to discuss why I am not a big fan of “5S audits.” I fully realize that 5S audits are out there in a big way and are almost pro-forma as a “lean practice.” I have not run into any consultants who do not have some kind of 5S audit in their collection of tools, and the topic has pretty constant traffic on the Lean Enterprise Institute discussion forums – and just about anyone who offers one up gets a lot of requests for copies.
Before I go too far, though, let me explain what I mean when I say “5S audit.”
What I typically see is a single page with a 6×6 matrix of squares on it. Down the left hand side in column 1 are labels for whatever 5 “S words” are being used in this particular version. Across the top in the top row are points assignments from 1 to 5.
The grid is then filled with criteria in each “S” to get the specified number of points, maximum 5 in each category.
Auditor takes the checklist, looks at the area being audited, perhaps asks some questions, and assesses, for each “S” how many points are given.
It is typical to then make some kind of chart – spider diagrams are popular – and assign the area a score, perhaps an average, so they are, for example, at “Level 3” on their 5S efforts.
Does that about capture it? There are variations, but I do not care so much about the form as I do the function.
And what, exactly, is the function?
That is a question that does not get asked often enough, and if it does, the asker does not press hard enough on “exactly.”
Let’s keep in mind that this audit consumes time and resources and produces nothing. Therefore it had better be an effective countermeasure to some kind of problem.
What, exactly, is the problem?
How do you know? What have you observed?
Give that a little thought.