by Bob Zaruta, President/CEO, NWIRC

Delivery or moving houseconcept. Hand truck with cardboard box as home isolated on white. 3dUpon starting my new position as President/CEO at Northwest Industrial Resource Center (NWIRC), my wife (Debbie) and I embarked on a move across the state from Shavertown, PA to Erie. Anyone who has moved their household contents, or even a son or daughter’s belongings from the homestead to a college dorm, knows the hard work and pains involved.  In our case, accompanying the 35 years of so many wonderful memories in the same house was the accumulation of seemingly as many items, our “cherished memorabilia”. This collection, as proud parents wanting to hold onto everything we could, was enhanced by deposits made in our basement and attic by our loving three sons during their college, law school and medical school days. You get the picture – many items stored, many not touched in a long time, mixed, unorganized, and in some cases unusable.

We have all heard of Lean Manufacturing, Lean Office, and Lean Healthcare. What about Lean Home?  During my 16 years at the IRC in northeastern Pennsylvania, I communicated the importance of Lean and helped many manufacturers start and continue their Lean journey. To help me in my efforts, I often used an illustrative tool appropriately (and ironically) titled the House of Lean, which depicted the various components of Lean within the framework of a house. One of the key building blocks is 5S: Sort, Set-in-order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain.  How humbling.

Before I continue, please don’t get the impression that we are completely negligent. To the contrary, the visible areas of our home were well maintained thanks mostly to Debbie, even though she is a big fan of knickknacks, pictures, and little stuffed animals that prominently adorned our abode. It was the non-traffic and storage areas where things got out of control. This is where we failed to Sort and remove unneeded items, failed to Set-in-Order the items to keep, and failed to Shine and keep items arranged and in ready to use condition. Over the years we threw many things out, reorganized closets, and cleaned and rearranged the attic, basement, and garage. Heck, I even created a Shadow Board (a popular tool of Lean) with outlines of my handyman tools so I could hang them when not in use and find easily when needed.  Our shortcoming is that we didn’t ‘Standardize’ to have a process for the above 3S’s, and we didn’t ‘Sustain’ the process.

We have been very busy Sorting, Setting-in-Order, and Shining the things important for us to move to Erie. Nothing innovative about it and we can’t take the credit, as Plato says “necessity is the mother of invention”.  However, as the clutter is removed from our lives we are feeling an increasing sense of peace and contentment.  We vow never to go through this again, so we plan to Standardize (have a process going forward) and be committed to Sustaining that process.  If we are successful in this part of our 5S endeavor, we will most certainly take the credit.  Wish us well.  I plan to be very visible in the 13-county community representing the NWIRC.  When we have the opportunity to meet, feel free to ask me how Debbie and I are doing with our Lean Home.