5S Training Lesson in the Genba

I'm in a Kaizen event this week. No, like really in one, Not as a facilitator, trainer, advisor, but as a participant. It's nice to be on the receiving end of the training and objectives once in awhile.

One of my tasks I volunteered for was to combine four workstations into two workstations. The equipment is simple: pneumatic presses, bins of parts, control panels, jigs, gauges, sensors, etc., need to be disassembled from the tables and reassembled and rewired onto their new tables. But it is a time consuming task that requires tools, information and materials. I learned a good 5S lesson today while working with some tools for this job.

Part of the plant's kaizen event planning is to prepare and maintain a rolling cabinet of tools and supplies handy for jobs like this. Whoever built the cabinet did a great job of placing shadowboxes in the drawers for screwdrivers, wrenches and other tools. Most 5S auditors would be proud.

I made good use of an adjustable wrench today. The tools are easy to use and versatile for disassembly, particularly in breaking torque on the various sizes of bolts on the unit. Then I could go through with a socket and ratchet to quickly remove the hardware.

One thing was aggravating though. Within the shadowbox (made of a foam cutouts) the large medium and small adjustable wrenches were stored like this, in the closed position:
You might imagine grabbing a wrench and having to adjust the wrench from "0" out to 5/8", 7/8" or 1" in order to fit the bolt head. Since I was working with larger bolts, I often would go back to the tool box to put the wrench away with it looking like this in the fully open position......and then have to thumb the jaws all the way back to the closed position so it will fit inside its home in the shadowbox. Annoying!

O.K., alright, it isn't a big deal. But let's think about the job for a minute and see if any lessons may be learned from this experience. First, there does not exist within any part of this world, a bolt with head width of "0". So why store the wrench in the closed setting? Nobody will EVER use it at this setting. Come to think of it, isn't it funny that manufacturers sometimes actually engrave a "0" on their adjustable wrenches?

It is a simple example, but one that speaks to the purpose of 5S. 5S is not about housekeeping or keeping things looking neat, although a clean and tidy workplace is often the result of 5S thinking. The person who put the shadowbox together did a great job of cutting out the foam, but effectively standardized the waste of excessive motion by cutting out foam that only allows the wrench to be stored in the closed position.

So, we must admit that the foam shadowbox is good, but what would be better? What is the next improvement? What would take us beyond the viewpoint of 5S as housekeeping? Here is a small kaizen idea: Store the wrench in a common position, like 1/2", 7/8". Just thumb it to somewhere close to its middle setting. Now, any movement will be minimized while permitting the next user to go in both directions with minimal waste of motion and time:

Perhaps this is a too simple, almost silly example, but we can apply this lesson to many things in the workplace: 5S isn't about housekeeping which often leads to the standardization of waste. 5S is about waste-free standardization.

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