The Real Purpose of 5S
By John Compton
It’s safe to say that the most commonly used Lean/CI tool is 5S. I have yet to visit a printing company involved in Lean and continuous improvement that has not made use of the method. It is a great place to start improvement activities since 5S embodies key principles of Lean manufacturing including eliminating waste, improving flow, and continual improvement. However, most implementations only focus on the goal of workplace organization and cleanliness and, by so doing, miss the point. 5S is not just a tool to for keeping the workplace clean. It’s a tool to develop better thinking and practical decision making in every employee.
- SORT: Learn to separate needed items from unneeded tools, parts, and equipment and remove what you don’t need right away. These are difficult decisions to make because it’s hard to know what will be needed tomorrow. It requires thinking about what you use and creating a strategy for keeping or removing things you use.
- STRAIGHTEN: Organize items and paper in a way that makes standardized work easy. This also requires the creation of a strategy for determining where to place things that are frequently used, things that are occasionally used, etc.. It also means creating visible places for everything and changing that as flow changes.
- SHINE: This is much more than making things bright and shiny. It’s about ensuring that everything in your work environment works well at first touch. When you start to use something, it should be working on one touch and shouldn’t require you to struggle and fight with it to make it work. The “shine” stage is quite complex since not everything can be checked every day. It requires a plan to check items on some kind of schedule and make corrections to them when they don’t work at first touch.
- STANDARDIZE: This means incorporating the three previous stages into your daily work routine. This is not easy as old habits die hard and new ones get established slowly through repetitive actions. Furthermore, people are already very busy doing what they’ve always done. This is difficult but necessary. Standardize involves understanding what is required of every job to ensure that it goes to the next activity in the value stream without errors or defects. It also involves returning the work area back to standard condition prior to beginning the next job. Standardizing is the true reflection of how well we understand the job.
- SUSTAIN: This is essentially the responsibility of management to maintain the discipline of the four previous stages. Note that this is not about management asking workers for a clean and tidy workplace. It’s about management asking questions about how the organization of the workplace sustains the flow of work, whether practices are maintained, and, most importantly, what can be done to help.
In the end, 5S can be used as a way to create a clean and tidy work area by requiring workers to sort, straighten, shine, etc., or it can be used as a way to get workers to observe their own work practices, think about why and how they do it, and act by making small but difficult decisions every day. This is 5S as a people development method.
While using 5S to create a well-organized, clean workplace can lead to an easier and safer workspace, failing to grasp the deeper purpose of it means you miss the people development benefits and you’ll likely be limited in the rate of improvement you can achieve.
CI Ready! June 15–19
As a result of the Continuous Improvement Conference being cancelled due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, a week-long virtual event—CI Ready!—has been added to our educational schedule. It will feature presentations on such topics as visual management, personal kanban, 2 Second Lean, and error tracking and prevention. Attendees will also be able to attend our on-line course, Introduction to Lean Manufacturing. More information on CI Ready! will be forthcoming.
The 2021 Continuous Improvement Conference will be held next April in Columbus, Ohio. Most of the 2020 speakers will be on stage in 2021. Learn more about the event at ci.printing.org.
Lean Thinking in Ten Words
By John Compton
During his keynote presentation at the 2018 PIA CI Conference, Pascal Dennis summarized Lean thinking in ten words:
“What should be happening?” “What is actually happening?” “Please explain.” “What should be happening?”
The investigation of any problem or condition needing improvement should always begin with the “What should be happening?” question. What should be happening could be the standard condition at which a process is supposed to be operating or a new, improved target condition attempting to be reached. Similar questions are “What is the standard?” and “What is the target condition?” If you’re trying to get to a solution or an improvement, you can only get there if you know where you’re going.
By asking this question first, we stop ourselves from the impulse to jump to a “solution” without adequately understanding the problem.
“What is actually happening?”
This question requires that we take the time to investigate and understand the current situation. This permits us to know where we are now in relation to the desired condition. The metrics and words used to describe what’s actually happening should match those used to describe what should be happening. The difference between them is the gap to be closed. Answering this question always requires that we “go and see” where the situation is actually happening to learn the facts, rather than relying on reports and spreadsheets. Furthermore, companies that have limited amounts of trust and respect for employees—but high amounts of blame—will struggle to get good answers to this question.
This simple request for people to offer their experience, knowledge, observations, and insight is central to achieving the desired outcome. Those people who work in the process or function where the undesired condition exists will have the greatest insight into the best countermeasures for closing the gap. They are in a position to know what has changed or how the process can be improved. In a culture of high trust and respect there will be no shortage of useful input and ideas.
There certainly is more to be understood about creating an effective Lean/CI practice in a company than these ten words. But they do represent the way Lean thinkers and doers go about providing leadership for improvement. Try practicing this approach and don’t be surprised if improvement begins to accelerate at your company.
By the way, Pascal’s book Getting the Right Things Done is an excellent source of insight into this approach.
Creating Employee Engagement
By Jim Workman
At the 2018 Continuous Improvement Conference, Brian Adam explained how and why his company, Olympus Group, has employee engagement levels well above the norm (34% according to Gallup). Olympus, which specializes in dye-sublimated fabric graphics, has grown its sales over 300% since 2005, an increase that Adam attributed, at least in part, to the productivity and innovativeness of employees enthusiastic about their work.
Having engaged employees is inextricably linked to corporate culture. An oversight many leaders make is focusing heavily on business strategy and lightly on culture. Adam quoted influential management thinker Peter Drucker who famously said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
With attendees spilling out into the hallway, Adam presented his list of the top ten actions the company takes to create employee engagement. First on the list was creating a noble mission. He stressed that missions expressing why a company exists help employees find inspiration in their work. Articulating a company’s values is also important as it helps attract and hire employees that fit the culture. Olympus regularly stresses and displays its core values—selflessness, can-do attitude, gets results, and integrity.
Item three was new hire orientation. The audience listened intently as Adam described how the company completely changed that way it orients new employees. First impressions are now considered as important for new employees and they are for new customers. The first day on the job now looks like this:
- Manager greets new employee at the door
- Employee is brought to new desk that is fully set up and functioning with supplies and a functioning computer and phone
- New business cards are waiting on the desk, along with a gift for the family
- President welcomes them to the team, meets one-on-one with them, and discusses company history and culture
- Manager takes employee for tour of facility to meet each employee
- Co-workers take new employee out to lunch
Item four—a revamped employee improvement idea system—has made a big difference in not only engagement but likewise in reducing waste. Employee ideas are encouraged, tracked, implemented, celebrated, and rewarded. The system is not only easy for employees to use but also explains the type of suggestions being sought. Suggestions are posted so their implementation status can be seen by all.
Other items on the list relate to communication, including one-on-one meetings, lunch roundtables, and Adam’s Monday morning employee updates. Item ten is to be generous and use social events to build camaraderie. The many things Olympus does for employees include a scholarship program, graduation gifts, birthday gifts, employee of the month/year awards, and remarkably, interest-free loans to employees.
Want to read more about what one progressive company in our industry does to create an environment that brings out the best in its employees? Review the slides and read an article published in the summer 2019 issue of SGIA Journal.
Winner of CI Quiz Gift Card
Congratulations to Barbara Horowitz of the 787 Group for being the lucky winner of the drawing for a Visa gift card from among those who completed our CI Quiz. Almost 100 people had completed the quiz by the March 2 deadline for the drawing.
The quiz was difficult to ace—only 10% percent of quiz takers had a perfect score. About 50%, however, missed two questions or fewer. If you haven’t taken it yet, you can still do so by going to ci.printing.org/ci-quiz.
Continuous Improvement newsletter is published seven times a year by Printing Industries of America. Send submissions and subscription requests to firstname.lastname@example.org.