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Seiketsu (aka. Standardize)

May 14, 2010

I was in an organization last week talking to an Operations Manager about the productivity of the work force in the facility.  The Operations Manager told me that his location was one of the poorer performing locations with respect to labour utilization.  After touring the shop floor, I could not stop thinking of how productive the shop floor could be if it had a 5S program in place.  Any company wanting to implement a lean manufacturing program needs to start with 5S as its foundation.

The fourth principle of 5S  is “Seiketsu (aka. Standardize)”.  A perfect way to explain this principle of standardization is to picture yourself  on trip to your local Home Depot.  When we walk into Home Depot, every department is identified through an effective visual factory program.  Each aisle, each department, each checkout is clearly identified.  The signs look the same (standardization).  Now imagine walking into any Home Depot store.  They look exactly the same.  You expect this standardization when shopping at a hardware store, grocery store, fast food restaurant, etc.  It should be no different in our workplace. 

Once the workplace has been sorted, simplified and scrubbed clean, standardization needs to happen to ensure consistency in the work place among the different workers on the same shift and among the other shifts.  Standardization ensures that variation is minimized.  Minimized process variation ensures good quality throughout the process with minimal defects.  Once these standards are in place within a production line, they can be deployed to other production lines among different shifts. 

Seiketsu also means keeping one’s person clean, by such means as wearing proper working clothes, safety glasses, gloves and shoes, as well as maintaining a clean, healthy, working environment.  Another interpretation of “seiketsu” is continuing to work on the first three of the 5S’,seiri, seiton,  and seiso continually and every day.  As I mentioned before, 5S is not and cannot be a one time event.  It cannot be a blitz.  Blitzes are short-term and last no more than a few days, before the workplace goes back to the way it looked before.  Blitzes are performed when a VIP or a customer visits for a one time event.  Seiketsu or Standardization means that the workplace is kept clean and tidy on a continuous basis, and ready for any VIP or customer to visit without any advanced notice.

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