5S, Great tool, but so often misunderstood

Have you ever tried to implement 5S and received kickback?

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!


5 Responses to 5S, Great tool, but so often misunderstood

  • fred says:

    agree, but the actual fact is the 5S seems to be a additional work for the operator, they always said no time to do the 5S, even we have discussed several times, they need to return back the tools at the standard position and don’t put everywhere.
    2nd, now we have build up the 5S checklist for each area, and separate the area to three shifts, morning shift doing where, and midum and evening doing where. they need to check the last shift cleaning.
    But right now, the 5S is still the biggest problem in our daily work. how can I do?

  • Robbie Howarth says:

    You need to understand what 5S is all about, and cleaning is not the biggest element, we eliminate the need to clean – its a waste.

  • riko nugraha says:

    Agree, 5S is about 2 things, doing standard and improve it. Explain to people then invite, challenge them to do the standard is a hard one, but some times we forget too, that 5S is first step for improvement, that’s why we didn’t give appreciation for improvement opportunity in 5S program

    • Chris G says:

      5s is the foundation for everything surrounding the concept of continuous improvement. If you don’t get that in-place to begin with then you will be more and more frustrated by the lack of progress. Riko Nugraha is absolutely right as it being the first step and getting the point across can be very hard work. Without senior management on your side to begin with however, then forget it, do not waste your time and energy on a battle you simply will not win. The process can take considerable time and effort to get going, especially with a workforce that are deeply suspicious of your intentions and furthermore are entrenched in their own ways of doing things, seeing you as a threat, a know it all, or just another idiot they have seen come and go on yet another of those trendy management whims. I remember reading about Deming, and how he became almost totally forgotten by his fellow Americans, until they realised that they had to do something to catch up with the Japanese and Deming became the knight in shining armour once again. Not with complex theories nor fancy Jargon that very few could understand, but BASIC stuff which could be built upon.

  • Andres Gomez says:

    Great posts, right now in company I work for we are 5 months into the 5S program and it has been a challenge… the thing that has helped the most is to ask the operators to improve their work space by using suggestion boxes and actually analice their feedback, this is great help as sometimes the changes we engineers do are not as helpful as we think, they might seem logical from our perspective but that is not the case for the operator.

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