Five S

Never underestimate the power of a clean and organize workplace

From Lean Manufacturing, the one thing that stick to me since the very first book that I read was the Five S Program.  I found fascinating how simple it was and make me realize that for years I underestimate the power of a clean and organize workplace.  My former boss put on my hands the book Five Pillars of the Visual Workplace from Hiroyuki Hirano.   That book was my starting point, I really had no idea of what to do or how to implement the 5 S.  It was pretty clear for all of us that we need to do something different and that we needed soon.

I read the whole book and based on that information I created a training.  I also created a quick questionnaire to ask the employees how they felt about their work and the workplace; I wanted to know how they felt with the current status with the hope that their discomfort and/or dislikes will help me to sell an idea that would actually help them and not only the company.

The results of the poll confirm that top three concerns of the employees were: safety, difficulty to get the materials and the general cleanliness of the area.  With the help of the human resources team we put together a training schedule that included all the employees from all the departments.  I took me about a week to have about 90% of the employees trained but at the end everybody was so interested on the program that it was pretty easy to sell the idea of doing a Red Tag campaign followed by a Big 5S Event.

With the event, we impacted several areas of the plant at the same time: production lines, some offices, maintenance shop and the break room.  The same area employees completed all the work.  We stop the plant for two days to have the first three S’s of the program completed: Sort, Set in Order and Shine.  After the event we work for some time on the standardization and the program to ensure housekeeping and organization sustainability.

A couple of months after the implementation we did another survey, the same questions from the first time brought a totally different outcome.  The employees attitude changed, the participation on trainings increased and the number of suggestions and ideas about how to improve the process.  The most amazing part was that the employees itself maintained the program alive and that happened just because it was beneficial for them.  Managers and supervisors were so thrilled by the results that work hard to keep the discipline.  They did their part doing audits and keeping a schedule for special Red Tags events as well as retraining whenever things got a little sloppy.

That was my first experience with a 5S implementation; it was also my very first learned lesson:  never underestimate the power of a clean and organized workplace!

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