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“Audit Schmaudit”

January 12, 2010


As we are still in the throws of the New Year I thought it would be apropos to discuss 5S Auditing. Why you say? Because if we have a base-line assessment of where we are at, then it will make it easier to know where we have to go.

Here are some reasons why audits may not be as effective as they should be:

1. Audit scores are higher than they should be. People don’t really know how to audit effectively.
“I know we were a 40 last week, but I think we made great strides and are at an 80 now.”
2. It takes too much time.
“What do you want us to do, work or audit?”
3. The audits aren’t fair.
“The office people score higher than the shop floor.”
4. The scores don’t mean anything.
“They [management] don’t do anything with the results.”
5. It’s a form of “gotcha” or punishment.
“You didn’t put that back when you were done with it. That’s going cost you points.”

Sound familiar? I’m sure you either have seen or heard something like this or have experienced it yourself firsthand. Wait, you might be saying “Tony, we don’t even do audits.” For that I say, thanks for reading this far. Now let’s explore and effective 5S audit system.

Things to consider:

“Audit Schmaudit”
First of all, think about why you may need to do the audits in the first place. For mature 5S programs, auditing may not even be needed at all. Companies that are at the point were the system sustains itself might not even have 5S audits. These are the companies that don’t even have to use the term “5S” anymore as it has become part of their culture. So for the rest of us, auditing should be of value to help improve our 5S system.

Train the 5S Auditors
I have been to organizations that perform 5S audits and when I see their sheets or scores I wonder how effective is their auditing program in the first place? At this one facility I participated in some of the 5S audits and most of the areas scored about 20 on a scale of 100 (based on their audit sheets). One month later, I returned to see that the scores had jumped up tremendously to about 60-80 range. Wow! What an improvement! I was standing at their 5S Communication Board and I couldn’t believe my eyes. I couldn’t believe it because not much had changed since my last visit. Based on what I saw they still should have been in the 20-30 range. When I asked “How did this happen?” The mumbled responses included “The supervisors didn’t want to look bad” and “We know these scores weren’t right, but we posted them anyway.” Then I heard “I think we need to train our auditors.” Bingo!

So when we train people to be 5S auditors there are two things I want to make sure we accomplish: 1) that the individual auditor is consistent from audit-to-audit and 2) that the scores are consistent between auditors. I like to use the ISO Standard 19011 (International Organization for Standardization) as a model to train 5S auditors. Ask your quality professional for more information on that.

5S Audit Sheets
Do you already have an easy-to-use audit sheet? There are several types out there readily available on the internet, some for free and some you have to pay for. Did you just take the free one and copy it? That’s o.k., but I would recommend this very important lesson: “Standardize then Customize.” This means to standardize your audits sheets and then customize them to meet your needs. When I work with clients, I have a generic 5S Audit sheet that I bring in so they have a starting point. I’ll be the first to admit that it isn’t perfect and doesn’t fit all situations. But what I want them to do is use this as a learning tool to make their own audit sheets better.

Here are some audits sheets I have run across over the web that are free. I am not endorsing them, but I would like your feedback on what you think of them.

What I have come across in my years doing this is that for most organizations we can start with three main categories of audits sheets: 1) for office, 2) for manufacturing or plant floor, (for hospitals that would be labs, treatment rooms, etc.), and 3) storerooms or warehouses. The reason I say this is that for manufacturing you will see the words like “machines” or “equipment” and that isn’t always appropriate for office or warehouse functions.

Now for the grading or scoring part, I’m a big fan of using “Levels” and numeric scoring; meaning that we can progress through different levels of 5S. I like this because it shows improvement or progress, it helps to set goals, and we can tie Reward & Recognition in with it. Now one of the caveats of using this type of system is that judgment may come into play regarding how the auditor scores and area. Once again, I refer back to training your auditors for consistency. I have seen other types of audit sheets that have yes/no type scoring. For the most part, what I have seen are answers like this “Yes, they are doing it but…” or “No, they missed one thing so they get no credit at all.” One other thing I like to see on the audit sheets are room to make comments. I want the auditors to be engaged in what they are doing. Can they prove the score that they gave?

Make it Quick and Simple
Make sure not only the audit sheets are easy to use, but that the entire process is quick and easy. I’ve seen people spend more wasting time with their 5S audit system than it is worth (remember “muda”). They take more time entering data, printing out elaborate spreadsheets, analyzing every score to death. No wonder people think this is a waste of time. See how long you current audits take. Then try to cut the time in half, just like a good old kaizen event. At one company, their initial audits were taking about 30 minutes each and they had about 20 areas to cover. Now that’s a lot of time just on audits. I challenged them to streamline their process. On their first attempt they were able to get the audits down to 10 minutes each without loosing and effectiveness. Of course the next challenge is to see if they can reduce the amount of time again.

Do Something with the Results
Now that you have the audit scores, what are you going to do with them? Make them meaningful; help the area team leaders improve their 5S scores. You can tie Reward & Recognition into this process. Reward & Recognition is a complicated subject which we’ll save for another time. But one thing I want to say is that it doesn’t have to be costly. I liked one hospital lab’s approach to Reward & Recognition, they had the managers wash the cars of the people whose area that had the most improvement and the highest score. You can read more about this in “5S in Healthcare, One Labs Journey.

I hope this helps a little as you prepare for your best 5S year ever. Let me know what you think. Thanks – Tony

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