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5S is considered a first step to applying Lean. In this FREE 41 slide PowerPoint Presentation you’ll learn the following:
Lean Manufacturing and Six Sigma over the years have come together and are both being applied by many companies to processes from manufacturing to service operations to healthcare. In this 41 slide PowerPoint Presentation, you will learn why 5S is a fundamental aspect found in both Lean and Six Sigma.
I’ve never understood why most organizations start their Lean journey with 5S. Most consultants advocate this approach also. I take a different view.
In an earlier post, Jamie Flinchbaugh argues that organizations shouldn’t begin their Lean journey with 5S for the following reasons:
- If your first step in Lean is one that involves mandates, it is harder to get long-term engagement.
- The benefits of 5S are long-term and not direct.
- 5S doesn’t force engagement of executives or senior management.
In a follow-up post, Jon Miller responds and, mostly agrees, but makes this point:
Even if discipline through 5S is not the first and most urgent behavior change, don’t let that delay you for very long in doing 5S. There are reasons that 5S is a building block and prerequisite of so many other aspects of lean … And when invited to visit your workplace, I will never accept “Discipline is not the most urgent behavior we are trying to change” as an excuse for trash on the floor, cluttered workstations or any other signs of poor 5S.
Before I respond, let me quickly explain what 5S is:
What is 5S?
Each of the “S” in 5S means the following:
- Sort. Clearly distinguish what is necessary to do the job from what is not. Eliminate the unnecessary.
- Set in order. Put needed items in their correct place to allow for easy accessibility and retrieval.
- Shine. Keep the workplace clean and clear of clutter. This promotes safety as well as efficiency.
- Standardized cleanup. Develop an approach to maintaining a clean and orderly work environment that works.
- Sustain. Make a habit of maintaining your workplace.
Or, here’s a simple image of the above definition of 5S:
Why You Shouldn’t Begin Lean with 5S
I agree with both Jamie and John. But, my reason for not beginning with your Lean journey with 5S is simple:
Start your Lean journey with what the organization needs most. In other words, it depends.
For example, if the organization is a Healthcare facility, such as a hospital, then beginning your Lean journey with 5S is very important, because organization, safety, and visual management are very important in reducing or eliminating medical errors.
But, if the organization is a call center, then 5S becomes less important. In that environment, the big question is “why are inbound contacts happening at all?”
True, 5S as a support program for an overall Lean journey in a call center can be helpful. But, it’s a very minor part. The key question keeping call center executives up at night is this: what can we do to improve the customer experience AND reduce inbound product warranty contacts? Rarely will 5S help in answering that question.
Or, if the organization is primarily a software organization, then elements of 5S are important, but not all. For example, Kanban for software development is gaining popularity, with the support of 4S: Sort, Set in Order, Standardize (standardise), Sustain. Visual Management is a key component in these software organizations.
In short, it depends.
I disagree with Jamie’s point (3) above. In fact, I believe that most consultants encourage their client companies to begin their Lean journey with 5S because the effects are so immediately visible – there’s nothing that emotionally lifts team morale more than to see before/after pictures of a workplace after 5S. But, the problem with most consultants is that they only do the first 3 steps of 5S and then they leave. The client company loses out since, arguably, the most important steps of 5S are actually the last two: Standardize and Sustain (Self-Discipline).
The most important steps of 5S are actually the last two: Standardize and Sustain (Self-Discipline).
I will say this: Lean will not be adopted and championed by senior management unless it can be demonstrated that the principles and practices of Lean impact the key metrics for which the senior management is accountable. And, rarely will those metrics be the metrics that 5S are meant to influence (except for safety).
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