5S – There is No Such Thing as Too Far

Awhile back I talked about whether 5S is really foundational and does it need to be done as the first thing on a lean journey.

Once an organization decides to journey down the 5S path, it shoud involve the people in the area.  The area should be understand that 5S is there to highlight abnormalities so issues can be addressed immediately.

A question that I am asked frequently is, “How far is too far?”  What they want to know is, what is the minimum they can do to have workplace organization?  Is there a point of diminishing returns?

I believe there is no such thing as too far.  Get it as clean and organized as possible.  Spic and span.  Henry Ford was known for not allowing a spec of saw dust on the floors of his saw mills.  This is the mentality and goal an organization should have when implementing 5S.

I have a couple of reasons for thinking this way.  First of all, a by-product of doing 5S well is discipline.  If everyone is putting things back in their place and maintaining an organized environment, they are following the standard work.  This is a good thing and we should keep pushing it.

Secondly, if someone is asking what is the minimum to do they are not seeking perfection.  Perfection may not be reached but we should always be striving to get better.    Good enough conveys that once a level is reached we don’t need to improve.  Looking for what is good enough is not a mentality that lean organization should want.

There is a good example of a company in Japan from a tour summary on Evolving Excellence that some people might think is taking it too far, but I see it as being disciplined and seeking perfection.

5S done well does not mean the organization is lean.  Understanding why they do 5S and the benefits they have gotten from it can give clues about how they view lean though.

Don’t short cut the benefits and effort in implementing 5S.  You will end up back sliding in the long run.  Stay disciplined and seek perfection.

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Posted on August 31, 2011, in Culture, Engagment, Tools and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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