by Craig Corsi, Lead Consultant , Vie Associates, LLC

5S- painted floorWith the season upon us, some of us may have already begun tackling those chores we have on our spring cleanup checklist. It’s an annual rite-of-passage for many of us this time of year to begin preparing our homes for the summer months. We’ll scramble between April and early May to accomplish everything so we can feel good about having our homes and yards cleaned and organized. The disconnect we all share when it comes to maintaining cleanliness in our work environments (shop floor, office, warehouse), is that we think of it in the same manner, that it should be done once a year, maybe occasionally or only when a customer is scheduled to tour the facility.

In my eight years of consulting I’ve had the opportunity to lead dozens of workplace organization events. A few number of those projects were conducted where the company’s main objective was “to perform a thorough cleaning”. Now that’s all well and good, the team in the end accomplished their goal but workplace organization, as a lean tool, is much more than performing a “once-over” in the assembly department. 5S is a methodology which is a system of principles and rules for regulating a given discipline. It sits at the opposite end of the spectrum when comparing it to an annual cleanup event. 5S teaches you how to organize a work space for efficiency and effectiveness by identifying and storing the items used, maintaining the area, and sustaining the new order. Here are factors critical to a successful 5S event:

Involve the right people

Once you’ve identified a project, give careful consideration to who you include on the project team. It’s important to have representation from people in the area, especially those who work on off shifts. Excluding them will only diminish your chances for success.

Sustainment is the most challenging ‘S’

Everyone seems to know this, but it still remains the biggest hurdle. It boils down to one factor…commitment. Before embarking upon an initiative ask yourself how far you’re willing to go to make 5S a part of the company’s DNA. It requires longer term project planning, resource planning and consideration for incentivizing employees.

Don’t reference your 5S efforts in the past tense

I hear often from business leaders during plant tours that “we 5S’d that area 2 years ago”. Recall that 5S is a lean or better yet continuous improvement tool. It’s continuous in the sense that we should always be searching for a better way to improve. Otherwise, you can chalk it up to being just another “Spring Cleanup” exercise.

Craig Corsi is a Lean Specialist for Vie Associates, LLC. He is a manufacturing professional with more than 20 years of experience in the areas of Operational Excellence, Supply Chain and Inventory Management, and Continuous Improvement Initiatives.