Thursday, April 12, 2012


By Al Norval

A big thank you to all the people who participated in our 5S poll last week. I wanted to share the results with you and here they are:

The poll question was – Which part of 5S is the most difficult to implement?

Sort: 7%
Set in Order: 0
Shine: 0
Standardize: 21%
Sustain: 71%

I interpret this to mean that once people get over the shock of having to remove things no longer needed, setting the remaining items in order and cleaning & inspecting the items that are left is not as big a hurdle. By remove, I don’t necessarily mean throw out. Some items have scrap value and can be sold or can be given away to schools or charities or may have a use elsewhere in the organization.

Typically the first three S’s go together. Quite simply from any work area, we remove things we don’t need, take the remaining items and organize a home position for them answering the question – what goes where and how much. We put the things we use the most often closest to us and the things we use less often farther away. In doing so, clean & inspect the items to ensure they are in good working condition.

This is the easy part. The hard part comes when we need to set standards for who does what and when, standards for what goes where and how much, standards for how clean is clean. To set these standards we need to involve the people who will be doing the work in the setting of the standards to ensure we get their buy in. No one likes standards imposed on them.

My experience would agree with the poll results. The most difficult part of 5S is sustaining it. Even when we have good standards, how do we ensure people follow them over time? To answer this question think about the message we are sending people about how important the standard is, if we don’t check that people are following it? Simple – if we don’t check, it’s not important.

My suggestion is to develop a system of layered checking. Assign someone to check the daily 5S system is being carried out according to the standards. Then assign a supervisor from the organization to check the checker. Next assign a leader to check that the supervisor is checking the checker.

In checking we go hard on the process and easy on the people.

It sounds like a lot of work but layered checking by leadership continues to reinforce the importance of following the standards. Over time the standards become a habit. They become the way we do thing around here and then the checking can be backed off. Not dropped entirely but the frequency can be reduced. In this way, 5S gives us the organizational discipline to implement and follow many standards.


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