5S & The Genba Training Standard

There is a lot of talk about 5S and how it is the cornerstone of lean manufacturing. If this is true, then why is it that all we ask operators to do when it comes to 5S is clean? Are we to believe that cleaning is the path to world class organizational performance? Why is 5S thought of as a housekeeping program? I’ve published an eight part article series on 5S and the Eight Wastes that addresses these questions about how 5S is a systematic thinking process – NOT a housekeeping campaign.

An offshoot of this systematic thinking was posed in a question by a co-worker in a recent Job Instruction (JI) session: “how am I supposed to audit the workplace when regarding 5S standards?” My reply is simple and something anyone can do: refer to the Job Breakdown sheet for any given job. In the header area of the Job Breakdown Sheet (JBS) you will find a field for tools, supplies and parts required to do the job:

If you have been through a JI session, you will know that one of the four “Get Ready” points for instruction is that we should “have the workplace properly arranged, just as a person is expected to keep it.” Using the JBS, we can determine what tools, supplies, information and parts are needed to do the job as defined by the JBS. Anyone who has been trained using the JI four-step method will know that it is difficult to perform the job correctly, safely and conscientiously (i.e., to the standard) without a properly arranged workplace.

If you are out on a 5S audit and find there isn’t a JBS for the job, create one. It will help process owners define and design a better organized workplace. You can practice observing and adopting a questioning method to coach people versus a telling method. Use the JBS to help formulate your questions: “how do you remove the o-ring?” “What happens if…?” “What is the correct oil to use on this step?” The answers to these questions will give you the facts required for good workplace design.

You can use the 5S thinking method to help you along at this point. In other words, 5S supports the work standards and JI helps you sustain the gains made by 5S through good training and genba follow-up. Are only the parts, tools, materials required for the job in the work area? Are they arranged properly? Are there any unnecessary steps to this job? How can they be eliminated? The two are mutually dependent and one reason why many people don’t make it past 1S or 2S levels. Plus, if you want Lean buy in, supporting co-workers in making their job safer, easier and more consistent sure beats cleaning and getting the plant “tour-ready”!

For a more detailed article series on 5S and the Eight Wastes, see my articles page.

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At June 4, 2008 at 9:03 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...


I share your perspective and frustrations regarding the popular perception of 5S. It is NOT a "Thou Shalt Keep The Area Clean" program. It is not the foundation of Lean.
I have been helping firms implement improvement programs around the country for the past 10 years, and the request for help rarely starts with why they need to improve. Typically the request is one of the following: Lean Overview Training; Value Stream Mapping; or 5S. (I'll focus on 5S for now.)
Certainly 5S reduces the waste of motion related to an unorganized work area. 5S also impacts the other 7 areas of waste as well. Yet fundamentally, I consider 5S as showing respect for people.
5S is one way to tell an employee, "Hey, what you do is important, and I want to make sure you always have what you need, when you need it, in the proper location so you can achieve greater success. As your manager/supervisor/leader, allow me to help you and your team modify the work area as your team sees fit to support standard work." If I heard that, I would probably pass out from shock.
5S supports the increased focus on value creation by reducing workplace waste.
I ask managers and teams why they want to do 5S. What problem will it solve? If they can't answer, I'll probe to see if they can come up with one. But if they are still at a loss, I suggest not doing it. I think it is impossible to sustain something if it doesn't solve a problem and/or you can't articulate the need to change.
If 5S is still required, many firms minimize the need for training and understanding. There is a focus on just doing the sort, set and shine. Yikes! 5S seems to be so simple, that there is a vast underestimation of how challenging it can be. I have a Job Breakdown Sheet for 5S. My teams are shocked to see that 5S has 11 important steps. (If I am going to train and support teams, I better walk the walk.) The JBS is great because it reminds employees that the project is not done until you have completed the last important step. Yes, it is a trick, because you are never really "done". PDCA never stops!
The challenge for 5S is identical to all genuine improvement techniques: How do you get a team to agree to standards? How do you get the team & manager to check and act, perform Gemba? (Discussion for other posts.)
And if a firm can't sustain 5S in one work area, forget rolling it out to the entire company. Also, forget the other Lean training programs because if the team can't agree on what tool is needed and where, how are they going to agree on how to do the work.
And before I finish, I want to thank the managers that imposed tool shadow boards on their employees years ago. Now those boards are empty once again and I have more work :)

At August 22, 2016 at 1:56 AM , Blogger navya said...

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At December 23, 2016 at 1:57 AM , Blogger Neeta said...

The compete removal of unnecessary items along with efficient workplace maximization is sufficient to help develop improved productivity with minimal wastage of time
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At August 21, 2019 at 4:44 PM , Blogger Hydraulika said...

"There is a lot of talk about 5S and how it is the cornerstone of lean manufacturing". Can you say a little bit more ? #Blog utrzymanie ruchu


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