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.


Cost Reductions in Lean Manufacturing

February 21, 2010

When talking about lean manufacturing, the word cost does not mean cost cutting but cost management.  Many managers today believe that trying to reduce cost in their operations can only be accomplished by firing employees, restructuring, or beating up their supply base.   The consequences of these actions leads to deteriorated work standards that leads to process variation and ultimately quality deterioration.  So instead of cost cutting, maybe we as managers need to start practicing effective cost management of our processes.  This includes;

  1. Cost planning to maximize the margin between costs and revenues.
  2. Overall cost reductions in the work place
  3. Investment planning by top management

Our opportunities for cost reductions on the shop floor can be eliminated by focusing our efforts on muda elimination.  Everyday we use excess resources to carry out non-value added tasks in our operations that the customer is not paying for.  Our efforts should really be focused on;

  1. Improving quality
  2. Improving productivity
  3. Reducing inventory
  4. Shortening the production line
  5. Reducing machine downtime
  6. Reducing floorspace
  7. Reducing lead times

If we focus our efforts in these seven areas, we can effectively reduce costs in our organizations.