Disaster Recovery, Haiti and 5S

January 16, 2010

I was reflecting on the news of the earthquake in Haiti this week. One of the major things reported was the lack of coordinated relief efforts at this point in time. This made me think back to when I was a young Quality Control Supervisor at a company where my boss, the Director of Operations, put me in charge of our rapid response/disaster recovery cart. The intent was that this cart could be wheeled out and has the items for management to respond to a situation like a spill or other facility emergency.

The first thing I had to do was find out where this cart was located. Being new, I didn’t even know we had one. Secondly, I had to get the key to be able to unlock it. Now with the key in hand and the location of where it was at, I set off to find it to see what I was up against. After going to the area of the building that seldom gets traffic from humans, I located the cart in the corner buried under a pile of stuff. I freed it from its location and brought it to an area which actually had enough light and room for me to go through the cart. The previous “owner” of the cart did me a huge favor because I found an inventory list taped right to the door. What a relief, at least I now know what is supposed to be in there. I emptied the contents of the cart and compared it to the list. Fortunately, most of the items were present. A few items were missing. I was sure I would be able to get those replaced. What I did notice is that there were some walkie-talkies in the kit; but when I tried them the batteries were dead.

So before I really started to focus my life on Lean I can look back now and see that I applied many Lean principles to my thinking. First, I applied 5S to the cart. I went through and sorted things out. Then, I reorganized the items on the cart (Set-in-order) and even found a better location for it that I labeled. I cleaned up the cart and took care of those dead batteries (Shine). I could have stopped there and just have been happy that I found the cart. But I realized that I needed to do a little more. I decided that on a quarterly basis I needed to do a quick check (or audit) of the cart. Making sure everything was there and in good working order (Standardize). At this point the “Sustain” part became easy as long as I followed my standard of checking it quarterly.

My thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by this tragedy. I know that my 5S cart story woefully pales in comparison to what it happening now in Haiti. It is just a little thought on how 5S can make things easier for us in times of need.

As a corollary to this story, I was at my mother’s house in Florida taking

Repair Crew

care of her after she had hip surgery. That’s when hurricane Charley hit in August 2004. I can admit she wasn’t well prepared for a hurricane; she had moved to Florida a few years earlier from the Midwest and really didn’t think about it. We survived the hurricane o.k. and made the temporary repairs needed to patch up her house. When I returned home I made a kit for her (with recommended items from FEMA) so that she could be better prepared for a hurricane. I remind her in April every year to go and check the kit, make sure everything is there and in good working order.

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