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A process and method for creating and maintaining an organized, clean and high performance workplace.  The 5S’s are taken originally from 5 Japanese words, Seiri, Seiton, Seiso, Seiketsu and Shitsuke.


5 Whys:

The 5 why's typically refer to the practice of asking, 5 times, why the failure has occurred in order to get to the root cause of the problem. There can be more than one cause to a problem. In an organizational context, generally root cause analysis is carried out by a team of people related to the problem. No special technique is required.


Abnormality management:  

The ability to see and respond to an abnormality (any violation of standard operations) in a timely manner.



A signal, light, bell, music alarm, triggered by an operator confronted with a non-standard condition: tool failure; machine failure; bad part; lack of parts; cannot keep up; error needs correction etc. Andons can also be used to signal for assistance to help to prevent the process stopping.



English translation of Jidoka. Imparting human intelligence to a machine so that it automatically stops when a problem arises.



A run of like products/parts through a process (number of product/parts run between product changeover).



Consensus building about a problem or issue using group discussion.  All ideas are listed without comment or regard to feasibility.



Typically used to describe the amount of inventory or queue in front of an operation.



The amount of production over a given time period.


Cellular manufacturing:

An alignment of machines in correct process sequence, where operators remain within the cell and materials are presented to them from outside.


Cycle Time:

The time to complete a specific process. This must not be confused with Lead time which normally includes waiting time cumulated before, during and after the process and is a product of WIP.



The amount of product a customer requires over time, such as: daily, weekly, monthly etc.



Non–productive time generally due to equipment stoppage, lack of materials, or lack of operators – generally refers to machine breakdowns


Elemental time:

Time allotted to a specific operational step, within standard work.


External Setup:  a setup that can be done while a machine or process is in operation.  This type of set up does not delay production.


Finished Goods:

Completed product ready for shipment to the customer.


Fire fighting:

An expression used to describe the process of performing emergency fixes to problems.



The prediction of demand over a given time period based on input from Sales and Marketing, and historical trends.



The leveling of variety and/or volume of items produced at a process over a period of time. Used to avoid excessive batching of product types and/or volume fluctuations.


Internal Setup:

Setup that must be performed while the machine or process is not operating.  Production cannot take place during this time.



Also known as automonation. The imparting of human intelligence to a machine so that it automatically stops when a problem arises.


Just in Time (JIT):

Defined as ‘giving the customer what they want, when they need it, with the required Quality, whilst using the minimum amount of resources (labour, space, equipment and WIP i.e. lowest cost).



Translated ‘Kai’= Change, ‘Zen’ = Good.  A continuous improvement vehicle for driving quick hit value by implementing “Do now” solutions through waste elimination



Japanese word for signal.  It is used in a pull system to signal when production is to start, and can take a number of forms (e.g., cards, boards, lights, bins, etc.)


Lead Time:  

The total time taken to fulfil an order.


Lean Production:

A manufacturing strategy that uses less of everything compared to traditional manufacturing.  The focus is on eliminating waste or Non Value Added activities within a process.



Any activity that adds to cost without adding to value of the product.



Variations in process quality, cost and delivery



Unreasonableness; demand exceeds capacity.


Non Value Add:

Any activity that does not add form, feature or function to the product.  Non Value Added activities include transportation, storage, inventory/buffers, handling, queues, machine repairs, etc.


One piece flow:  

A manufacturing philosophy which supports the movement of product from one workstation to the next, one piece at a time, without allowing inventory to build up in between.


Operator Cycle time (OCT) :

The time it takes for the operator to complete a predetermined sequence of operations, inclusive of loading and unloading, exclusive of time spent waiting.



A technique for pacing a process to Takt time


Pareto chart:

A graphical technique used to quantify problems so that effort can be expended in fixing the “vital few” causes, as opposed to the ‘trivial many’.


Pareto principle:

80% of the trouble comes from 20% of the problems (i.e., the vital few problems).


Point Kaizen:

An improvement activity intensely directed at a single workstation, performed quickly by two or three specialists. Typically follows a full-blown kaizen event.


Point of Use Storage:

Term for the storing of material only at the place that it will be consumed.  This help eliminates warehousing and extra Non Value Add handling.


Poke Yoke:

Japanese term meaning error prevention. Ideally this is an engineered method or solution which makes it very difficult or impossible to produce a defective part.  It can also be applied in the manufacturing process in a number of ways i.e. only one type of bolt used within a specific workstation to prevent wrong part usage.


Problem solving:

The process of determining the cause from a symptom and then choosing an action to improve a process or product.


Process flow diagram (chart):

Path of steps of work used to produce a product or perform a function.


Processing Time:

Time required performing a process on an individual part.


Production Smoothing:

A method of production scheduling that, over a period of time, takes the fluctuation of customer demand out of manufacturing. Producing every part, every day.


Pull System:

Process that authorises production as inventory is consumed.  A pull system directly responds to plant changes, but must be forced to accommodate customer due dates.  The Toyota Production System is an example of a classic pull system.


Push System:

Process that schedules production based on demand.  A push system directly accommodates customer due dates, but must be forced to respond to plant changes.  MRP is an example of a classic push system.


Red Tagging:

Term used within the 5’s process to identify material that is no longer required at a specific workstation or place. Following the red tagging process the items should be removed in order that the clutter is removed and the workstation becomes more efficient.



Non Value Add work performed to correct a defect that has occurred.



A defined path a product takes as it is moved from operation to operation throughout a process to achieve a final product.


Safety Stock:

The amount of inventory needed to compensate for variation (i.e. demand, quality, and supplier delivery).



The process of changing from producing one product type to a different type.  Contains both internal and external elements.


Setup Time:

The length of time taken from the last good product of a production run, to the first good product(s) of the next production run. This should include any inspection time that is required to confirm the initial product following the changeover.


Six Sigma:

Started in Motorola, it is a technique that focuses on improving processes by reducing variability. Six Sigma refers to a quality level of 3.4 defects per million opportunities.



An Acronym that stands for Single Minute Exchange of Dies. The process that allows a person to reduce the time to change a production process over from making one part or product to another part or product.  In the best companies the process must take less than ten minutes (hence single minute).


Standard Operation;

The best combination of people and machines utilizing the minimum amount of labour, space, inventory and equipment.


Standard Work in Process:

(SWIP) Minimum material required to complete one cycle of operator work without delay.



A shop floor, line-side location where parts are sorted and made ready for presentation to operators.


Takt Time:

The required rate of production needed to meet ‘true’ customer demand.

Calculated by dividing the total net daily operating time by the total daily customer demand.


Total Preventative Maintenance:  (TPM)

A proactive approach to equipment maintenance involving maintenance personnel and operators focusing on maintaining reliable equipment, eliminating breakdowns, and eliminating equipment related defects.  


Value Add Activities:

Any effort or operation that transforms a product closer to what the customer ordered.


Value Stream:

All activities, both Value Added and Non Value Added, required to bring a product group or service from order to the hands of the customer,


Value Stream Map:

Or Value Chain Map.  A visual picture of how material and information flows from suppliers, through manufacturing, to the customer. It includes calculations of total cycle time and Value Added Time. Typically written for the current state of the value chain and the future, to indicate where the business is going.



Anything that does not add value to the final product or service, in the eyes of the customer. An activity the customer wouldn't want to pay for if they knew it was happening. Normally classified into 7 categories.


1. Defects

2. Over Production

3. Inventory

4. Over Processing

5. Motion

6. Waiting

7. Transportation


Work In Process:

(WIP) Materials that have been released into production for processing but have not been completed as finished goods.


Work Sequence:

The correct steps the operator takes, in the order in which they should be taken.






Glossary of Lean terms and words