IS IT TIME FOR A 5S REBOOT?
WHEN SUSTAIN IS FALLING BY THE WAYSIDE
From the time I first learned about 5S 15 years ago, I was hooked. For someone who loves organization and prided himself on how streamlined his warehouse was, learning about 5S was a wake-up call. As organized as our space was, it was nowhere near 5S standards. Since then, I’ve been studying, learning, implementing, failing, succeeding, failing again, and trying again at 5S until I finally figured out the best methodologies needed for a successful 5S program. I’ve visited warehouses and plants all over the country to find out what’s working and what needs improvement. Something I’ve noticed consistently is how often the Sustain pillar gets neglected. People start off with the best intentions, but six months, a year, or two years in, I’ll go revisit a operation and see things have slid back nearly to where they were before 5S was implemented. Sustain is considered to be the most difficult of the 5S pillars, and for good reason — with daily tasks to focus on, keeping up on even small 5S processes can easily fall by the wayside. But sustaining 5S can truly be easier than you think. When everyone on the floor and everyone in leadership understands the value of 5S, they see the benefit of maintaining it. It just takes repetition,
diligence, and accountability until each action becomes a habit.
When it starts as a mandate from leaders rather than a collective effort of the whole team, 5S is almost always set up for failure from day one. The folks on the floor don’t understand why they’re being asked to spend time organizing and cleaning when they have work to do. When they don’t know the “why” and “how” of what they’re doing, they see no value in maintaining it. If it’s not a priority, it won’t become a habit. If any of this resonates with you — you’ve started 5S but haven’t sustained it — that’s okay . It doesn’t mean 5S has failed, it just means it needs some attention. Don’t just give up on it. You can always return to any part of 5S. In fact, you should. Inside this month’s newsletter, I have a few additional tips for sustaining 5S, some of
How do you form a habit? In his book “Atomic Habits,” James Clear talks about the little choices that transform us every day. His thinking can be applied to great result with 5S. What happens when everyone on the floor contributes to one 5S pillar each day? Maybe it’s returning tools to the shadow board at the end of the day or noticing the visual cue for the tape is indicating it’s time to order more. Clear talks about the two-minute rule: If it takes two minutes, just do it . Any habit can be started in less than two minutes. Those little actions quickly add up and vastly improve the success of 5S. “Optimize for the starting line, not the finish line,” Clear says. It reminds me of another common issue I see with companies and how their 5S initiative gets started in the first place. After learning about 5S for the first time, managers and senior executives hop on the lean bandwagon and decide it all needs to happen immediately. But they forget to include their team in the educational component needed to make 5S succeed.
the common reasons why it fails, and steps for making 5S easy — yes, really.
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