Beth's Blog

5S is simple, but it's not Easy!

5S is simple, but it's not Easy!

Silence. Dead silence.

The room was full of major players. There were 20-odd site managers from fertiliser manufacturing sites right across the east coast. They were quiet, very quiet like the dead of night.

The epiphany had hit. I could see the light bulbs turning on.

You see, they had just spent the last few hours learning about 5S and going through an assessment to see where their sites currently rated in 5S maturity. Yes, it was about as thrilling as it sounds and with an uplifting breath, I came to speak with them for an hour. My team had already been on the Business Excellence train for 10 months and was perceived to be advanced.

In an effort to transform their journey from a freight train into a bullet train, the intent was for me to transfer my knowledge and practical experience to them. You know the theory: share the tips and pitfalls of 5S so the sites coming after you can benefit … gaining traction faster.

So, I took a deep breath and said it again; to be certain the point stuck in their head and continued.

5S is simple, but not easy.

I can teach you the elements of 5S in a few minutes. Go to a workspace. Get rid of the stuff you don’t need, to do the work at that workspace. Organise the stuff you DO need to do the work, so that it is easy and immediately possible to grab and use it. Clean it. Take a photo of the workspace and put it at the workspace. Regularly audit the workspace.

That’s it. It’s so simple that your children can be using it for their bedrooms!

But it’s not easy.

What workspace are you going to 5S?

Who is going to do it?

Do they work there everyday (or more frequently than anyone else)?

Do they actually WANT to make their space safer and easier to work in, or are they just doing it because you told them so?

Do they have a hidden agenda and are trying to make a point of some sort?

Are they experienced enough to know what to throw out and what to keep?

When they *do* the work, do they follow existing standards, and are therefore going to have the “right” items within arm’s reach etc.?

Are they proud of their workspace?

Do they want to work in a cleaner environment?

Will others respect the work they have done and respect the 5s standard?

Who is going to drive the 5S standard?

When a visitor comes to the workspace, is it clear what the standard is? Who is going to ensure the visitor leaves the space as they found it?

Who is doing the 5S auditing?

Are the 5S audits quick and easy to do?

Is the 5S audit considered a blame-game disciplinary measure or an opportunity to see “Maybe we got it wrong when we set the standard, the first time?”

Is the sense of pride and ownership so strong, that the workforce *wants* to do the audits?”

5S is simple, but not easy.


Author: Beth Stansfield aka Queen of Excellence

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