Anybody that has introduced 5S as a concept to the mass ranks of an organisation will know how difficult it can be. ‘Another flavour of the month’, ‘another thing to fit in’ and ‘when am i supposed to do this’ are amongst the many cries that can come back. But why is this?
The most common mistake organisations make in introducing 5S is failing to link it to the overall message of Lean and Waste removal. All too
often 5S is introduced as a stand alone program with the workplace organisation as its only supporting benefit.
In this case, it is a difficult sell. Leaving only the precise tools and equipment required in an area to perform a specific task, does not go down well when breakdowns and random quality issues are the norm and little is being done to fix them. The majority of people want to do a good
job for the company and keep the process moving, so it is natural for people to want to keep a few spare parts just in case.
In order to succeed 5S needs to be seen as more that just a house keeping tool. It needs to be linked to the bigger picture and to the overall waste identification process. After all that is what it actually is.
So when you are teaching 5S, explain it in those terms. The 1st and 2nd ‘S’ are aimed at setting the process out in such a way that abnormality can be seen quickly. The 3rd and 4th ‘S’ are aimed at trying to look for deeper issues and how a process can be further improved. And finally the 5th ‘S’ is actually all about the entire organisation working to make the process happen.
Also remember, that when a 5S audit is undertaken, it is not really the score that is important (although it does have a place), it is the small opportunities that the team see to improve.
If you would like to know more about 5S why not sign up for the free Kaizentrainer 5S course at
Or read ‘Tools for success’ By Barry Jeffrey and Graham Ross
I think most people have, if there honest with themselves, But why should this be, after all 5S can only help the workforce can’t it?
I think the truth of the matter, like most aspects of Lean, it is down to local culture and how the tool is deployed. Reading a book and then going out and implementing 5S really is not the way.
5S will only work if the workforce believes in it as a tool that is useful to them. This means taking time to explain in detail the reasons why 5S can HELP people.
You need to take time to explain that 5S is a waste identification and removal tool, and is there to help find waste at a local level.
In training it needs to be linked to the 7 classic wastes. 5S must not be seen as a house keeping tool, or something that is done when there is a visit. How many times have you heard, ‘Quick the Big Boss’ is visiting today, give the place a quick 5S!’…….Wrong message.
Time needs to be put aside to work locally with the teams as they deploy 5S in their areas. Not just send the middle managers and team
leaders out with audit sheets.
Audit sheets and there use can be one of the ‘make or break’ aspects of how 5S is received. Explain that the score is not the most important
box on the sheet. That honour goes to the area of the form that say’s ‘Opportunities for improvement’. Teams should try and identify just one or two opportunities at a time and work to improve them. They will then see their scores improve over time. If this is not done, the audit form can become divisive and 5S will start to receive a bad name.
So, 5S, Great tool, make sure it is understood in your organisation!