The Lean approach to business management is full of powerful tools that help organizations actively reduce waste, pursue perfection, and improve measurable business results. But, of course, tools are only as effective as the people who use them. And they don’t accomplish anything at all if people don’t engage.
That’s why it is important to communicate the purpose and benefits of any Lean tool you introduce. 5S is no different. In fact, because it directly impacts the workspace, it can be met with more resistance than other improvement methodologies.
That’s why it is essential to sell the idea well from the get-go.
The Essence of 5S
5S is workplace management technique in which the workplace and work area are organized with the intent to minimize the loss of time and movement. Although it is frequently practiced by organizations that subscribe to the Lean or Toyota Production System business management methodology, the principles of eliminating wasted motion and time can be applied to everyone and every type of business.
5S revolves around five ideas that make people more effective and efficient in their work. It earned its name because each of these five principles starts with the letter "S."
Sort: Keep only what is regularly used nearby
Straighten: Arrange the space so workers can find exactly what they need to use in less than 30 seconds
Shine: Ensure that the workplace and equipment are ready for immediate use
Standardize: Each job is done in the same way and everyone is challenged to offer ideas to improve it
Sustain: Foster a safe, efficient and effective workplace is everyone’s responsibility
5S isn’t just about “a place for everything and everything in its place.” That’s an artifact of 5S, but not its purpose. Companies adopt 5S to help each employee do a masterly job. The goal is to produce perfect results every time.
It is critical to communicate the purpose of 5S and what it does for organizations. 5S isn’t about cleanliness. It is about:
- Preventing errors
- Producing consistent, perfect results
- Delivering quality products and service quickly
- Keeping people safe
- Minimizing costs
When people recognize that 5S is really about helping them do excellent work and deliver high-quality, value-laden products and services that delight customers, they become more engaged in the practice.
One way to introduce 5S is to start with a pilot project so that people can see first-hand how it can help turn a messy, disorganized space into one that produces a highly efficient, top-quality result. Whether you do a pilot or not, be sure to establish baseline metrics that can be compared to the post-5S result. When people can see on a graph the difference the approach makes, they quickly grasp its value.
The 5S tool has the potential to improve business results, increase customer satisfaction, and keep people safe. If you simply impose it on employees without making the effort to achieve their buy-in, you can expect to be met with resistance and you will likely struggle to achieve your objectives. Instead, take the time to explain and prove the advantages. People want to do excellent work they should know that 5S is designed to help them do exactly that.