Do you struggle maintaining good 5S conditions? Ever wonder how some companies are able to sustain world class 5S? It comes down to whether you have a complete 5S system or not. Typically, one or all three of these key components are missing, broken, or are not consistent enough to sustain good 5S conditions.
Most people think of 5S as “Everything has a place, and everything in it’s place”. Some think 5S is just about keeping things clean and tidy. Sure, it’s both of these, but more importantly it’s about having a complete system of being able to quickly and easily identify abnormalities and either take action, or ensure action is taken to correct the situation. When you have more than one person within the same space, things are going to get out of place. Stuff happens in any working environment. A robust 5S system will quickly highlight these deficiencies and allow appropriate actions to be taken to address the root cause.
When 5S is a struggle to maintain, typically one or all three of these components of a robust 5S system are either missing, broken, or at the very least lack the consistency necessary to sustain.
1. Standards – to define normal vs abnormal conditions
Home position tape or markings are pretty common in any environment that has a 5S program. However, the standards must go well beyond just identifying the home positions of equipment, tools, etc. The standards that lead to world class 5S include minimum and maximum levels, how long things should be located in certain designated locations, FIFO/LIFO controls, ability to quickly identify normal vs abnormal conditions, identification of known abnormalities, documented operating procedures, maintenance routines, safety requirements. Standards should be practical, easy to maintain, and be visual and documented. Reliance on ‘institutional knowledge’ is a very good indicator that your standards need attention.
2. Escalation Process – what to do when there is an abnormality
Really escalation process is an extension of standards, but we’ve shown it as a stand alone component due to its importance and that it is very commonly overlooked. World class 5S systems have very well defined escalation processes for what to do when there is an abnormality. Abnormalities are going to occur. Of course through continuous improvement these abnormalities should be tackled and improved, but in any on-going and growing environment, if you are going to continue to exist, things are going to change. With change, comes some level of abnormality. You need to plan for the abnormalities by having clear standards as to what to do when faced with one. These processes may include installing signage that identifies the abnormality is known, who is taking action, when it will be resolved. They may include notifying a specific person or high level leader of the situation. It some cases, the process may call for the operation to stop until the abnormality is resolved.
3. Visual Controls – make abnormalities stand out and be seen
Everyone is dependent on our computer systems these days out of necessity. I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t use them, but what I am suggesting is that there is still a need for good visual controls that highlight and make what is in the computer systems visible to employees and leaders. The problem with most computer systems is that they only highlight problems if you look in the system. Also, for those who may not have access to the system, they don’t see the concerns or may not fully understand the magnitude of the situation or know if it is getting better or worse. This can drive a disconnect as to priorities, urgency, and actions required. Use of visual controls are extremely important to maintain world class 5S so that any abnormalities are made very obvious to everyone.
Here’s an example that highlights the need for all 3 of these components. Within a manufacturing cell, there is a need for a partially complete unit to move to another cell for testing. Not all units require this interim test though. The process is that when required the manufacturing cell moves the unit to the test cell for testing or to await testing. Sometimes, the test cell gets backed up, so the manufacturing cell leaves the untested units within their manufacturing cell to wait for test capacity. There isn’t space allocated for the storage of these units within the manufacturing cell so the units are placed anywhere they can be placed. You can see how the 5S in these two areas can quickly become out of control. Why?
Not withstanding the inherent process flow issues, the 5S problem starts with the lack of standards. Standards on how the test cell is scheduled, laid out, and configured to manage the expected work load. Standards around min/max units waiting for test with designated locations and visual controls are missing. There’s no escalation process for what the manufacturing cell should do when the test cell is full. Who to contact, where to place the untested units, and nothing stopping the cell from producing units only to sit and wait for test, or for the test cell to increase capacity. There is a lack of visual controls that clearly indicate there is a problem. The situation would be visual in the production control system, but on the floor, the condition is not visual. This could result in the test cell not having full awareness of the backlog, loss of FIFO by scattering the units anywhere would occur, the magnitude of the situation would be diffused by the units being squirreled away throughout the manufacturing and test cells, resulting in a missed opportunity for all involved to understand the magnitude and align on the needed priority to address.