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5S - getting the message right

By Barry Jeffrey, Jan 8 2015 08:08AM

How many organizations try to force in a 5S program and received kickback? Have you ever been in the position of trying to explain why 5S will change the working world for an employee?


If most people that are actively involved with Lean sigma are honest, I think most have at some point. Why should this be, after all 5S can only help the workforce can’t it?


Like most aspects of Lean Sigma, we have to consider culture and understanding how best to explain the tool and how it is best deployed. Reading a book and then going out and implementing 5S really is not the way.


5S will only work if individuals and the workforce as a whole, believe in the process, and buy into the fact that 5S as a tool that is useful to them. This means taking time to explain in detail the reasons why 5S is not only important but also how it can assist people on a day to day basis.


Time needs to be taken to explain that 5S is not simply another phrase for ‘housekeeping’. 5S is far more than that. It should be explained that 5S is really a waste identification and removal tool, and is there to help find waste at a local level.


How many times have you heard, ‘Quick the Big Boss’ is visiting today, give the place a quick 5S!’…….Wrong message.


Time must be made to work locally with the teams as they deploy 5S in their areas. Use live exercises and examples to drive home the message. When the 5S process starts to uncover abnormalities, help people to see this is good, providing and act to improve the situation.


Be careful how audit sheets are used. The way the audit process is executed can ‘make or break’ how a 5S program is perceived. Take time to explain that the score is not the most important box on the sheet. The area of the form that says ‘Opportunities for improvement’ by far is the most useful.


It is not a race. Teams should try and identify just one or two opportunities at a time and work to improve them. Good countermeasures, well implemented will pay dividends. Teams will then see their scores improve over time in a consistent manner. Take time to work with workforce to help them develop ‘open eyes’


5S is a great tool, if explained and implemented correctly. Make sure it is understood in your organization!



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