Industry Forum

Everyone is talking about lean manufacturing and the advantages associated with that strategy. We’ve heard about the success companies have had by conducting productivity events, removing waste from their operations and becoming more efficient while experiencing significant cost improvements. We must realize, however, that there is a path to getting to that point; a path that starts with the five S’s.

The five S’s are:

· Sort—Sort everything.
– If you don’t need it, get rid of it.
– Distinguish between what is needed and what is not.
– When in doubt, move it out.

· Straighten—Arrange and identify (organize and label).
– A place for everything, and everything in its place (footprinting and tool boards).
– Point-of-use storage (put it close to you; eliminate walking and double handling).

· Scrub—Daily cleaning (everyone takes part).
– Eliminate “mess” creators and collection areas.
– Look for ways to keep areas clean and organized.

· Standardize—Audit for adherence (daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly).
– Prevent backsliding (keep it clean).
– Continue to improve; maintain the first three S’s.

· Sustain—Self discipline; stick to the rules.
– Management involvement.
– Measure improvements (post audit results and graph performance).

Techno-Coat Inc. has historically been recognized for running a clean powder coating operation. Housekeeping wasn’t bad, but it was done when we had the time to do it. When introduced to the five-S principles, we discovered many areas worthy of improvement.

The potential to dramatically improve your facility is real, but it takes discipline to sustain that condition and not backslide in any area. Demonstrating that you can effectively address the five-S methods is a prerequisite to any productivity event.

Having a well-organized, clean, high-performance workplace eliminates waste, boosts employee confidence, improves the work environment—and it just plain looks good. The pride that employees have in the condition of their work area quickly becomes apparent.

Once the first three S’s are working for you, it is critical to standardize and sustain. When you begin to see the improvements, as we did at Techno-Coat, you’ll find you won’t want to see any backsliding. It does take discipline, but with a total commitment from the entire workforce, including management, you can be successful.

Posting the audit results not only displays your level of adherence to the principles, but also allows the employees the opportunity to monitor their performance and to take pride in their accomplishments. At Techno-Coat, a pizza lunch is awarded to the crew with the highest quarterly audit score.

Once the five S’s have been fully addressed and you’re able to sustain the activity, you’ll be ready to consider moving on to productivity events. While some events may yield greater rewards than others, you’ll learn from each attempt.

Since starting the process at Techno-Coat, we have experienced the benefits of our efforts. It takes time and commitment, but the payoff, in increased efficiency, cost effectiveness, organization and customer loyalty, is there.

The moral of the story: Taking the important first steps toward lean manufacturing and continuous improvement does not have to be a painful process. The results can be impressive even if you aren’t initially convinced you can benefit from the five S’s.