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Mike Micklewright

Six Sigma

You Won’t Sustain Your 5S Efforts Unless...

...You change the policies that create waste

Published: Monday, November 17, 2014 - 12:46

Editor’s note: This article discusses topics covered at greater length in episodes 19–23 of a new streaming video training series, Creating and Sustaining Lean Improvements—Integrating Principles, Culture, and Tools by the author and 360 Performance Circle, a sister company to Quality Digest. Check out the video at the end of the article, or click here to learn more.

The sustain step of 5S is difficult enough as it is. When companies forget or don’t address one key attribute of successful sustainment, it’s nearly impossible to sustain improvements.

Normally, companies try to achieve sustainment through a combination or subset of the following activities:
• Layered 5S assessments by different levels of management via leader standard work
• Tracking/monitoring of assessment scores
• Competitions between areas/processes
• Ongoing and orientation training
• Visual display of discrepancies and actions

However, the most forgotten (yet extremely critical) part of sustainment is getting to the root causes of why an area or process became so chaotic and cluttered in the first place. In many cases, finding the answers to these questions will need to involve upper management. Yes, executive leadership needs to be involved in the 5S process!

Here’s an example. During the sort process of a 5S hands-on training session, I asked a team why they had so much of a certain stock item, and they said they were forced to spend their budgeted money before the end of the fiscal year, or else they would lose that amount of funding for the next year. When I asked this same question of another 5S team in a warehouse belonging to the same company, my contact showed me 10 years’ worth of copier paper loaded onto a rack. This company was, by the way, short on storage space (hm... wonder why).

Any policy that encourages people to buy inventory that’s not needed now or in the very near future is a bad policy. If such a policy, which is near the root cause of the problem, is not changed, sustainment won’t occur Even if items are successfully sorted out during a 5S process, next year inventory will grow again because of the “spend it or lose it” policy. Management needs to be involved to eliminate the root cause of the problem.

In many other cases, throughout all industries, those who purchase items, stock, supplies, or parts, are motivated to buy in bulk because of the lower price-per-part cost. Of course, this increases inventory, which, again, we try to sort out during the 5S process. This incentive in the purchasing group or process needs to change because any incentive that encourages people to buy inventory that’s not needed now or in the very near future is a bad incentive. Once again, management must be involved to eliminate this root cause to excessive inventory, otherwise the organization’s 5S efforts will not be sustained.

These are just two examples of root causes demonstrating why sustainment may not happen in an area that has been reorganized by the 5S process. There are many more.

For those naysayers who might suggest that we are adding cost by not taking advantage of bulk buying, please understand that excessive inventory leads to a requirement for more warehouse space, more handling and rehandling, more transporting, more quality defects, more obsolescence, more safety issues, more aggravation, more aging problems, and more product expirations. It all adds up to a lot of money.

My concern is that, for many companies, the 5S process is considered an issue for the “little people”; management feels that it doesn’t have to be actively involved in the process beyond providing the resources and lending verbal support.

If 5S is going to be sustained, management needs to be actively involved not only in the assessments, but also in eliminating the root causes that lead to excessive inventory build-up.

Here’s a short video that explains top management’s responsibilities. It’s a clip from my new training series, “Creating and Sustaining Lean Improvements—Integrating Principles, Culture, and Tools.

Discuss

About The Author

Mike Micklewright’s picture

Mike Micklewright

Mike Micklewright has been teaching and facilitating quality and lean principles worldwide for more than 25 years. He specializes in creating lean and continuous improvement cultures, and has implemented continuous improvement systems and facilitated kaizen/Six Sigma events in hundreds of organizations in the aerospace, automotive, entertainment, manufacturing, food, healthcare, and warehousing industries. Micklewright is the U.S. director and senior consultant for Kaizen Institute. He has an engineering degree from the University of Illinois, and he is ASQ-certified as a Six Sigma Black Belt, quality auditor, quality engineer, manager of quality/operational excellence, and supply chain analyst.

Micklewright hosts a video training series by Kaizen Institute on integrating lean and quality management systems in order to reduce waste.