Archive for March, 2010


Seiri (aka. Sort)

March 28, 2010

There is a new show on TV last week that I watched called “Hoarders”.  For those of you that have not seen it, just imagine people living in their homes and not being able to throw anything away.  We’re not talking about a few things here, but mounds and mounds of obsolete items that have not been used for weeks, months, or even years (food included).  It is so bad that they cannot walk from one end of their living room to the other.  Would you believe that there is a percentage of the American population that lives this way.  I can think of no better example to illustrate the first step of 5S, which is Seiri (aka. Sort)

Although not as extreme, we operate every day like this in our workplace also.  We fail to ask ourselves the question of whether an item is necessary or unnecessary.  All sorts of items are found in the workplace that we no longer use or that we will only use in the distant future.  In the workplace, we find unused machines, jigs, tools, dies, rejected parts, WIP, raw material, supplies, parts, shelves, containers, desks, workbenches, files of documents, carts, racks, pallets, and many other items.  A rule of thumb to use is to discard anything that has not been used for 30 days or more.

Red tagging is a way of deciding what is necessary and what is not necessary.  Going through the workplace with a Kaizen or a 5S team, red tags  are placed items believed to be unnecessary.  By the end of the excercise you may find that the entire area is covered in red tags.   A red tag area may be formed to move these tagged items into designated area for further review on whether the items should be refurbished, reallocated, sold, simply discarded. 

Questions that often arise after a red tag exercise are;

  1. “How much money is tied up in the red tag area?”
  2. “What was the original reason we bought this equipment, or fabricated this tool if it is not being used anymore?”. 
  3. “Why did we make these parts in the first place?” 

Management should get together after such an event to have a good look at the red tag items and start making kaizens to correct the system that made the wast possible.  This is an excellent excercise if you are trying to free up plant floor space.  The next step is determine what is the correct amount of items needed at the work place, or the gemba.  We will talk about this in Seiton (Straighten).


The 5S Steps of Housekeeping

March 26, 2010

Standardization, 5S (housekeeping) and muda elimination are the pillars of gemba kaizen in the common-sense, low-cost approach to improvement.  Kaizens at any company – whether it be manufacturing or a service industry should start with these three activities: standardization, 5S, and muda elimination.  I have been around manufacturing for over 20 years now, and I can honestly say these three activities when focused and done right leads to productivity improvements. 

I have seen many people do 5S for all the wrong reasons.  I have seen it done in a weekend because a VIP, upper management, or even the customer was coming into the plant and management wanted to show the shop floor that we practiced 5S.  I have seen groups of managers stay late into the night implementing 5S as the production workers performed their duties nearby.  I have seen blitz over blitz over 5S blitz only to have the shop floor go back to its messy old habits.  Putting it simply, I have seen 5S implemented for all the wrong reasons by many who claim to be experts in 5S.  The point that many of these so-called 5S experts are missing is that 5S has no end point or finish line.  Like many of the tools in the lean manufacturing tool box, it is a never-ending approach to continuously improve the process.  so don’t look for it to be done in a day, a week, a month or a year.

The five steps of housekeeping with their Japanese names are;

  1. Seiri: distinguish between necessary and unnecessary items in gemba and discard later
  2. Seiton: Arrange all items remaining after seiri in an orderly manner
  3. Seiso: keep machines and working environments clean
  4. Seiketsu: extend the concept of cleanliness to oneself and continuously practice the above three steps
  5. Shitsuke: build self-discipline and make a habit of engaging in 5S by establishing standards

As was done with many Japanese terms introduced into Western culture, we developed english equivalents as follows;

  1. Sort: separate what is unnecessary and eliminate it (red tagging)
  2. Straighten: put essential things in order so that they can be easily accessed
  3. Scrub: clean everything (tools & workplaces) removing stains, spots, debris, and eliminating sources of dirt
  4. Systemize: make cleaning and checking a routine process
  5. Standardize: standardize the previous four steps to make the process one that never ends and can be improved upon

There are also the 5C, which are;

  1. Clear-out: determine what is necessary and unnecessary and dispose of the latter
  2. Configure: provide a convenient, safe, and orderly place for everything and keep it there
  3. Clean & check: monitor and restore the condition of working areas during cleaning
  4. Conform: set the standard, train and maintain
  5. Custom and practice: Develop the habit of routine maintenance and strive for further improvement

In my next blog we will take a detailed look a the five steps of 5S.



March 2, 2010

Some say we are born with it, others say we can learn it.  How do we define leadership?

What is a Leader?

Leadership is about relationships. 

Leadership is about modeling the behavior in ourselves as well as the behavior we expect others to follow.  We lead with guiding principles and values that we believe in. 

Leadership is about inspiring others with a shared vision.  We want to paint a picture and share it with others. 

Leadership is about challenging the process to look for ways to improve and stay current.  Leaders are seen as pioneers by breaking into unchartered territory. 

Leaders enable others to act by building trusting relationships and collaborating on ideas.  Leaders experiment and take risks to find new opportunities. 

Leaders encourage the heart.  They celebrate values and victories.  They recognize everyday contributions people make.

A leader gets his people to turn challenging opportunities into remarkable success.  They unite people for a common cause and ignite their passion to succeed.  Leaders do not look for short-term results that affect the bottom line, but instead work to develop long-term relationships with people and institutions to help them adapt, change, prosper and grow. 

Leadership is not about personality; it is about behavior.

Attributes of a Leader

  1. Honesty by building trusting relationships
  2. Forward looking by connecting vision to hopes and dreams of the people below them
  3. Inspire by exciting people; energizing people; being positive with people
  4. Competency through relevant experience and sound judgement

Leaders do what they say they will do.