Monthly Archives: September 2011

Keys to Sustaining 5S

5S is a commonly talked discussed and implemented lean concept.  The purpose is to quickly see if anything is abnormal through workplace organization.  Organizations are able to implement 5S originally and are pleased with the results.  Over time though things begin to slip backwards though.

How can the 5S efforts be sustained?

Here are a few tips I have used through the years that help:

  1. Audit, Audit, Audit – People will tell me that auditing is by definition waste and they are trying to cut out waste.  I agree.  Auditing is waste, but in my expereince about 75% of the time we have to choose which waste is better to live with.  In this case, which waste is worthe living with the waste of auditing or the waste of downtime because tools can’t be found?  The waste of auditing is less wasteful.
  2. Audit at a Standard Day/Time – I have had managers say they want to mix it up and do surprise audits.  That way they see what is “really” going on.  I don’t like this.  It creates an us vs. them mentality.  The manager is out to “get them” and catch them doing the wrong thing.  The managers tell me that the employees will clean up and get in order because they know there will be an audit.  My answer…Fine.  If the manager is auditing on a regular basis eventually the employees will get tired of cleaning up for it and will maintain it.  Also, it is better to have it right for a little bit around the audit time then never which happens with the surprise audits.
  3. Make the Audit Part of the Leader Standard Work – Add the audit to the leader standard work.  This makes it more visible when it isn’t done and questions can be asked to better understand why.
  4. From the Top Down Should Audit – If 5S is that important then everyone should be involved in auditing.  A common structure I have used is the plant manager audits once a month, the production and department managers audit twice a month and the supervisors audit once a week.  When the employees see the plant, production, and department managers all auditing on a regular basis they will understand the importance of maintaining 5S.

These tips could be used for anything that is important to driving the business.  5S seems to be the one concept that has this discussion the most.

Good luck in sustaining your 5s efforts!


Paul Akers – Lean at Home

It is Labor Day in the U.S.  and I plan to spend time working in the yard and around the house today.  If you enjoy yard work and being more efficient with your time, you will definitely enjoy this video.

I enjoy Paul Akers passion for lean.  What I take away most is fixing some of the small things.  Fix what bugs you is his mantra.  He does it at home too.

I want the lawn mower wash.  I don’t have a riding lawn mower but I do have two kids that would love playing in it!

Happy Labor Day!!!

Single Piece Flow Remodel

Last weekend, I encountered the pain of single piece flow during our master bathroom remodel.  Sometimes doing the right thing is hard to do.  This was one of those instances.

Not a picture of our bathroom project

As my wife and I were tiling the around the tub and inside the shower we knew we would need a lot of cuts.  We knew we couldn’t just measure and cut a bunch of pieces to fit because of the odd angles.  This is where the single piece flow comes in.  My wife would measure a piece and mark it out.  I would run downstairs and out into the driveway, cut the piece and then bring it back up to her.  When I got back she would have finished installing the previous piece and measure out the next piece.  I would take the next piece and go cut it and bring it back.

The pain was physical.  I have never climbed up and down so many stairs in a day.  I felt like I was back in high school and the basketball coach had gotten mad at the team and told us to hit the stairs.  Usually, I am at my standup desk.  Not today!  I am sitting in my chair.

As hard as that got to be, it was the right thing for this part of the project.  We would have wasted more tile with bad cuts if we would have tried to forecast what was needed.

Understanding when single piece flow is necessary can be key.  Sometimes people try to fit everything to a single piece flow as a first step in their lean transformation.  Understanding the work being done and what waste may be created by doing batch vs. single piece is the first step to know how and when to implement single piece flow.

Off to heat my legs.  There is still more tiling to do.