QMT Features: March 2013
The secret for sustaining 5 S
The 5 S process, when properly implemented, exposes waste and leads to increases in profitability. So why does it fail so often?   By Curt Oswald, Don Reynolds and John Casey

Do you want to know a secret?   Do you promise not to tell?  This is a secret that the Lean Experts often overlook because nobody told them either.   Before revealing the secret, there are a couple of questions we need to answer:
Question 1 – What is 5 S?
Question 2 - Why is 5 S important to implement?
Question 3 -  Why do so many (American) companies fail in the implementation?
Five S is a management technique that helps organize a workplace by making it free of clutter and more visual, and even safer.  The “S’es” began as Japanese terms that closely correlate to Sort, Shine, Set in order, Standardize and Systematize (or Sustain).  In a nutshell, it is cleaning up any work area and getting it organized.  It sounds so simple.  It appears very obvious, ‘Who could argue the basic concept of keeping your workplace neat and orderly?’  However on countless occasions, American companies initiate a 5 S program and engage in a massive clean-up effort to organize the place only to find a few months later, that atrophy sets in and the disorganization returns.  What a waste.
The typical 5 S effort that “falls on its face”, generally follows this pattern:

1.     The leadership decides that the plant is “a mess” and starts an initiative to create organization.  They usually find a champion to lead the organization and that leader will passionately begin the 5 S methods.  Frequently they will start in a small pilot area, and begin the process by asking people to (1) Sort out what you need into categories (High frequency use to Infrequent use and un-needed).  Next they will ask the people to (2) Shine up the work area by sweeping up any dirt, pulling out some cleaners and wash the space (also called – Sanitize from time to time).  Then they will ask the people to determine a logical order to find a place for everything and put each item in its place or (3) Set in order.   At this point, the organization usually celebrates a little because the area is obviously more tidy and they stop to celebrate the accomplishment.  Frequently they skip the process of (4) Standardizing and (5) Systematizing and move to the next area.  This is where the atrophy sets in.
 2.    Once one area is completed, the champion moves onto the next, repeats the process and clean-up effort in area number 2.    With all the noticeable improvement plus the feeling of a better workplace, the organization gains some momentum and the activities begin to pick up the pace allowing the 5 S process to become a picture of success.
3.    At the end, the champion will feel pretty good, the leadership as well and they’ll ask everyone to “Keep it this way”.  It obviously is better, it is safer, why wouldn’t anyone want to sustain the gains?
4.    Then time passes and the plant starts to revert to where it started.  Unnecessary items start to crawl back into the workstations.  Extra tools and parts show up “Just in case”.  The cleanliness starts to drift.  Shadow boards have tools and devices missing in action.  You have seen it haven’t you?

Then they ask themselves: “Why did the effort revert back to the original state? Why did we do it in the first place?  Certainly a clean shop makes people feel better.   It does have some safety advantages and creates a more pleasant environment.  But is that why Management wants 5 S?”
Well here comes the first secret.  5 S increases profits because it exposes waste.  The operations that win are the most efficient in production and they are the fastest ones to see and solve problems.  When a strong 5 S program is in place, it is extremely easy for the leaders to walk around and see if people are operating to the plan and with the best practices or not.  When everything is in its place, the leader knows everyone has exactly what they need, that they are operating to the plan and they now have a baseline to start additional continuous improvement projects.  That equates to increased profits.  You are running at your best known and maximum effectiveness, the workplace is safe and the people are in a better spirit.  If they are running into a problem, disorder will occur.  This must be the trigger for management.  Someone is having a problem – that is loss of profits. The sooner you can see it, the shorter will be the response time and you will improve your profits by restoring order as fast as possible.   The secret is the 5 S process – when properly implemented, exposes waste and which leads to increases in profitability. 
This seems so obvious – so why does the effort atrophy?  Why is it that the process makes so much sense, plus it increases profits and people like it, yet why does it fall back into the original chaos?  When you look at the Japanese approach, they taught 5 S in the Sort, Shine, Set in order approach.  What they did not realize is there is a significant cultural difference between the Japanese and the Americans.  In Japan, conformity is something to be treasured.  To the Americans – we “do our own thing” – conformity is not cherished.  To the Japanese, excesses are un-natural.  They live in limited space, they are an overcrowded island where space is a premium. They have to store just what they want and need because they don’t have enough space for excess.  Americans are used to the wide open spaces.  We have people that have so much junk around, that they go out and rent storage facilities to hold the junk that they don’t really need.  The Japanese have a culture of conformity and thrift, the Americans have a culture of individualism and excess. 
Because there is that dichotomy, the American drifting back to its former level is the root cause on why the atrophy occurs.  Herein lies the second secret.  What Americans lack is a self imposed system of review and gains retention.   That is the 5th S – Systemitize.    Since conformity is counter to the culture of many Americans, you need to continuously reinforce the need to retain the cleanliness and order.  (in order to retain the profits).  But what is the system that Americans Like?  A Scoreboard.  Most people have gone to a sporting event and the scoreboard is the ultimate picture of success.  We all want to win, it’s in our culture.  While we don’t really like to conform, we naturally like to compete and beat the next guy.  So why isn’t 5 S working?  We don’t do a good job appealing to the basic motivation and inclinations of our people.  We don’t install a system of measurement, make it a game, publicly recognize accomplishment and make waste visible.  The secret is you must concentrate on the systematic reinforcement on 5 S in order to get the profits that you are seeking.
Now for the third Secret – We start the 5 S process at the wrong point!  Since the Japanese are comfortable with conformity, they naturally think about matching up to a standard and then continually measure themselves against that benchmark.   Americans need to know the standards and then they need to be measured against each other.  The third secret for 5S in North America is that a company needs to start with the Standardization Step.  The management needs to start by defining the standard – (the cleanliness spec).  This is best done with a combination of words and pictures.   The Operators need to know what is expected and how they will be measured.  When this is in place, the 5 S process works.
So what’s the secret?  Start at Step 4 by defining your Standard, move next to Step 5 Systematize, by having a process to systematically measure the orderliness.  Do these steps before you go to Step 1  Sort. 
Try it, you’ll be surprised!

Case study:

Standard Grinding and Manufacturing (SGM)
Standard Grinding (SGM) had a problem.  The shipping area was a constant hub of activity with hundreds of loads coming and going regularly. With limited space, shipments and documents were regularly being misplaced.  You’ve seen it before, good hard working people, stepping over each other and losing time playing hide and go seek for a box.  Standard Grinding had attempted 5S in the past, but things always drifted back to a state of mild disorder.  The symptom was the shipping area was cluttered.  The problem was sustaining the organization at this workcentre.   They had to find a way to fight recidivism.
Standard Grinding is a CNC machining company in Skokie, Illinois that produces precision and complicated components for the Aerospace, Hydraulic and Medical Equipment industries.  One of Standard Grinding’s major customers is Honeywell Aerospace, who deploys Supplier Development Engineers (SDE) that consult with suppliers like Standard Grinding and works with them on continuous improvement projects, especially Lean Six-Sigma.   In one of his visits Curt Oswald (Honeywell SDE) was discussing the shipping area orderliness with Don Reynolds (SGM Quality Engineer) and described that most North American companies start with Sort, Shine and Set in order.  But since previous 5S projects did not take root in the factory, Curt and Don decided to launch another effort but to switch the sequence and begin with Standardize and Systematize.
When they proposed the concept to Howard Natal (SGM General Manager), the discussion centred around cost.  “Every time we tried this in the past, it always felt like we were just spending money.  I didn’t want to throw money out the window again for a temporary boost in housekeeping.” noted Howard.  “I wanted something that would stick”.       Don and Curt’s idea was different and had the permanence that Howard was seeking.
They started by creating a layout of the shipping area and went around the department and asked for everyone’s input.  The process had a snowball effect; one idea built on another, and they started to build team excitement such that everyone just wanted to get started.  Then Don and Curt took the key strategic step.  Before the 5 S could start, they created a measurement system including a score card, an internal audit team, and a weekly review schedule.  With the Standard (the layout) and the System, the team knew what to do and how they could define success.  Standard Grinding had even taken the step to create a bi-lingual 5 S Mission Statement:
Don felt this was important since “The 5S Mission Statement set the stage for the culture change at SGM.  Everyone needed to be involved.  Having a bi-lingual statement signals that no one is excluded”.  He also adds “Ownership of a Lean 5S Project gives the workers pride and a sense of achievement.  They want to sustain what they’ve accomplished”.
When the Sort, Shine and Set in order activity got started, everything just flowed naturally.  The decisions were easy.  Don said “If we needed something, we had designated a place for it.  If it didn’t have a place, the item became a target for disposition”.  Don also observed “The Sort and Shine steps happened so naturally … almost automatically … by this point.  Safety was a natural by-product too”.  The Standard and the System broke the Pack Rat syndrome and SGM started disposing things that hadn’t been used for many years.  It provided the logic for everyone to only keep what they really needed and get rid of the rest. 
The work in the shipping area is much easier.  The clutter is gone and they can handle the peak congestion periods with relative ease.  Since the staff created the system, were involved in defining the standard and have a process where they self measure - the sustainability is real.   Curt stated “This approach to 5S implementation greatly reduced the fear-of-change and the fear-of-the-unknown. Teamwork and a winning attitude was the end result.  SGM did a great job; it was very rewarding”.  The best part is the people compete with each other and try to set new records for orderliness and simplicity.   Like most companies, word get’s around pretty fast and the other departments see the opportunity to duplicate the process.  
Now Curt, Don and the Team at SGM have a new problem.  Which area to pick next?   Hhhmmm, how about the tooling area? l
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