#9 — 5S in the Real World

We are recapping the top posts on the Lean Leadership blog for 2011.  Today we are looking at #9 which looks at the real world benefits of 5S:

It’s Saturday morning and the production crew is clocking in for another overtime shift. The team has been working a lot of weekends at this food processing plant to keep up with the growing demand for their popular brand.  The plant is finally scheduled to be down for the first Saturday in months.  Yet the production team is on the clock.  They are here to launch 5S.

Are the benefits of 5S really worth the time and expense involved?  This team could have certainly used a day off.   The Plant Manager would have liked to save the overtime expense as well.  Well, the leadership of this plant knows that they have a great brand and are running a good plant.  They also know that they need to keep getting better to properly support the business.  They are expecting 5S to help improve:

  • Housekeeping & organization – always important in food plants
  • Structure and discipline – this is foundational for any Continuous Improvement culture
  • Visual management – labeling and structure to support having a place for everything and everything in its place.
  • Reduced waste – the team will waste less time looking for parts, tools, and supplies because they know where to find them
  • Improved changeover’s – organized and standardized procedures are more efficient.

Today though, there are some unexpected benefits worth noting:

  • Excitement – This cross-functional team is excited. They were smiling and laughing as we designed and organized each of their parts carts.  The team can see how 5S will make their job easier and help them to do it better.  They don’t want to dig around for parts and are tired of wasting time looking for missing parts.
  • Efficiency – we discovered that several parts were obsolete while organizing the parts carts.  The line operators kept these obsolete items on their parts carts.  The sanitation crew didn’t know that they were obsolete so they have been cleaning the obsolete parts every night.
  • Teams see the benefit – they committed to do the work necessary to sustain the improvements because they could see how it benefits them and the company.
  • Leaders shine (regardless of title) – the true leaders jumped in and initiated change.  Others had to be pulled along.  Jeff Hajek writes about this point in his blog.

There are many well-documented benefits to implementing 5S.  Teams that are fortunate will find some hidden gems while launching this workplace organizational system.  What about your team?  Are you ready for 5S?  Maybe you are a 5S veteran but need to put some emphasis on sustaining the gains.   What were some of the unexpected benefits with your 5S launch?

This post is not intended to be a guide on how to do 5S.   I did write a series on 5S implementation, which you can read here.

Please leave a comment below if you liked this article. You can also connect on LinkedIn, follow me on Twitter, subscribe, retweet, digg, or stumble this article. Your feedback is appreciated. Please check out my Facebook page and continue the discussion there too.


About Christian Paulsen

Christian Paulsen is an Executive Consultant with 20 years of Lean Manufacturing. Chris adds value to organizations by driving process improvement and bottom line savings. Chris intends to help others by sharing the lessons learned after a quarter century of operational leadership, marriage, parenting, and even longer as a Cubs fan. Your comments on this blog are welcome. You can also connect with Chris via LinnkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook in the right sidebar. Chris welcomes your comments. Christian's professional services are available by contacting him through LinkedIn (right side bar)
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One Response to #9 — 5S in the Real World

  1. Pingback: Robin’s 73 Best Business and Success Lessons – Robin Sharma « Laughter Brothers

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