5S – Sustain

Tim Akerman
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5S programmes are started and fail again and again. What do the successful project do differently?

To make 5S sustainable it is vital that all employees are properly trained and committed to the process. All employees includes management and executive leadership. If your executives don’t understand their role in 5S it cannot be sustained. Visual management techniques should be understood and used by all. Workplaces that are well ordered with employees who adhere to the procedures that have been agreed will remain well ordered. Through repetition and discipline, the new ways of working become habits, these habits become principles. When the process of 5S becomes principle, it will be part of the company way until people say “that’s just how we do it”.

Checklists should be developed for each area to ensure that the things that are agreed are transparent and obvious. This enables everyone to focus on the things that are important, have specific and observable definitions, employees own their working area. This supports improvement and enables workers to identify improvement opportunities As a result of this, the checklists are living documents that evolve over time. One useful way to present the checklist is as a laminated list to enable write on and wipe off. The objective is to have a timely and visible reminder, not to create a paper trail. This should be posted where the work happens and include space for comments and questions. The checklist should be limited to between 5 and 10 points, Any less and the checklist is ineffective. Any more and completing the checklist becomes a burden.

Having set the schedule and agreed on the items, the area should be audited. Audits work best when there is a layered structure. Operator and supervisor audits focus on tasks and ensuring things are done. They ensure activity and corrective actions. Manager and director audits focus on workload and facilities. Managers and directors should ask more frequently what help is needed and what more they can do. Telling an operator about an error is system tampering. The results of the audit are presented to the operators to help them identify areas for improvement, not to shame or punish. the purpose of audits is to support the people doing the work with objective feedback on their progress.