4S – Standardise

Tim Akerman
Categories:   Lean  

In the standardise stage we can access the greatest benefits of 5S. Standard work is the lifeblood of continuous improvement. Without standards, there can be no improvement, but without standardisation sustained improvement cannot be achieved. The reason for this is that inevitably improving a process will change the process. If multiple methods are improved over time the likelihood of one or more of the improvements conflicting increases. If the process is standardised, it creates trust between operators and reduces the opportunity for confusion and errors.

One way to develop and standardise is to create standard operating procedures (SOP’s). These should be simple, clear and easy to follow. The people who operate the process should create the SOP’s, since they are the process experts. The SOP should include

  • details of all required equipment, including safety equipment, to do the task
  • best practice and tips to make the task easy
  • instruction on what to do if the process moves outside of control or specification limits

In addition, the SOP should be mistake proofed and act as a standalone training tool. As with any process, regular auditing supports consistent application fo the process principles and practices.

More than anything else we are trying to create habits and change behaviour such that 5S isn’t an additional activity, it is just how things are done. This requires us to move through the following sequence

  • Unconscious Incompetence
    We are unaware that our processes or tasks are poor and in need of improvement.
  • Conscious Incompetence
    At this stage, we become aware that our processes or tasks are in need of improvement, but perhaps need graining and support to make the changes.
  • Conscious Competence
    Having had the help and support we become competent, but it is a daily struggle. We are doing all of the right things, but we must think about it constantly and ensure we review best practice.
  • Unconscious Competence
    At this stage, we have achieved the state of business as usual. We don’t consider what we do as special, because it is everyday business. We must guard against complacency though, if we don’t strive for improvement and excellence we may degrade into unconscious incompetence.

When trying to make change happen, one must consider the balance between driving forces and restraining forces. We always try to drive improvement, however, whenever we increase the drive, the resistance increases. To enable change to proceed, we must remove the resistance not increase the drive.

We also start to use the visual order created previously. Abnormalities should be visible and information shared and obvious. Red tags should be actioned and resolved. There should be a cleaning plan. The process should be documented in SOP’s, everyone should be trained and everyone should be following the process. Staff should be encouraged to improve the process in  a controlled manner, working to a separate SOP for process improvement.