Blog Archives

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!

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Lean Manufacturing at Meggitt Polymer

I am slow on getting up to date on some blog posts I wanted to write.  One is on an article about Meggitt Polymer I found a couple of weeks ago.  I have not been there and have no affiliation with anyone there.

Meggitt is getting fantastic results from implementing lean out on the manufacturing floor.

…Meggitt was able to cut its excess inventory by 70 percent, freeing up 35 percent more floor space for additional manufacturing. He said it was able to reduce its production time 25 percent while increasing its volume 20 percent.

The article said they produce 11,000 different seals.  Considering the high number of finished products the results seem even greater.

Meggitt doesn’t see lean as just a way to cut costs, but as a way to grow their business.

At first glance, operational streamlining would seem to mean cutting the workforce — something the county, state and nation can ill-afford, with unemployment so rampant. However, it actually has just the opposite effect, advocates say.

They claim companies that learn to operate more efficiency are able to accelerate productivity, cut unit costs and increase market share. Before long, they need more workers to cope with growth.

Fackler said Meggitt is a good example. It has added about 30 employees in the last 90 days, he said.

In today’s economy more cases like Meggitt’s need to be spotlighted on a bigger stage.  They didn’t hire hundreds or thousands like GM or Ford may do when they re-open a facility, but they did grow and they did hire 30 people in 90 days.  That is significant for an area.  It will be the small companies, like Meggitt, that will play a significant part in turning the unemployment situation around.

Meggitt also got their employees involved in the decision making and improvement process.

Lean philosophy extends beyond managerial and engineering ideas, however. It requires input from those who do the actual work on the factory floor, as they often have the keenest feel for workplace inefficiencies.

At Meggitt, employees on the line worked side-by-side during the process, rearranging pieces of the manufacturing puzzle on a magnetic board.

This is great for the bigger moves and events.  I hope they have found a way to continue to do this on a day-to-day basis.  Have they created a process to maintain their engagement, so it isn’t a one time event?

Overall, it sounds like Meggitt is doing a good job of implementing and understanding some of the nuances of lean.  I would hope they are working at developing their thinking as leaders too, so they can sustain the growth they have experienced.