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“It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.” – W. Edwards Deming

Dr W. Edwards Deming

With these tough economic times we are all looking for what will keep our company going, what will make us stronger, or what will break us apart from our competition. Dr. Deming sums it up pretty well; it is necessary to change if we want to survive. You have heard the stories about companies that were leading their industry and are now out of business (Enron, et. al.). I feel very strongly that we need to plan and shape our own future. Many critics may say that you cannot predict the future so why try. I think that is a cop-out, a way to avoid the inevitable. We need to prepare the best we can for what’s coming next and what role we will play in its evolution.

I know it is only the end of August but I am already thinking about next year. That may seem strange, but let me put it this way – we have been working our Hoshin Kanri (a.k.a. Policy Deployment) plan and have achieved another milestone by expanding the offerings on our website (www.5Ssupply.com) to encompass all aspect of Lean (not just 5S). We’ve expanded the partners that we are working with (LEI, ASQ, and others). We also plunged into the social media world (with this blog, twitter & YouTube channel, LinkedIn Group – 5S Supply, etc.) These were all in our Hoshin plan.

By following the Hoshin process we were able to stay focused on what we think is important (and hopefully what the customer thinks is important too!). It almost feels comforting that we have a plan to follow. This gives us direction and spurs us to action when we need it. So as we move forward with the rest of this year we will also starting planning for next year and beyond.

So here’s the best part – to help other organizations on their Lean journey (our mission) we are offering another one of our very successful FREE webinars this time on Hoshin Planning. Please join us for a one hour session that will cover the basics of Hoshin Kanri on Wednesday, September 22, 2010.

For more information click here>> Hoshin Kanri FREE Webinar.

I am also pleased to share with you an article I wrote that was just published in ASQ’s Six Sigma Forum Magazine called Hoshin Promotion. This article gives a great overview of the process and explains what you can expect to create your own plan.

To sign up and read more, click here>> Hoshin Promotion.

Let me know what you think. I appreciate the feedback. Please feel free to share this with others. – Tony

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When we do a 5S event, it is usually pretty easy to get the team to perform the first “S” Sort by performing the 5S Red Tag technique; you know “When in doubt, move it out!” This is accomplished by attaching red tags to items that are not needed in the area and then moving them to the 5S Red Tag Holding Area. I want to talk about a very specific aspect when it comes to 5S Red Tagging: Why are 5S Red Tags Red?

First of all, I want to mention why they are typically called 5S Red Tags. It’s because the tag color was originally red. The color catches your eye and gets your attention as in “something is wrong”. I’ve been at companies where they tell me that they do not want to use red tags because people might get these confused with their QC Hold Tags or Reject Tags. So they try to pick another color like pink or purple. I say you don’t have to waste your time doing this. The first thing I would recommend is to work on your quality if you want to be a good Lean company. Slapping red tags on bad parts will not solve your problem. Secondly, train your employees to be able to tell the difference between a QC Hold Tag and a 5S Red Tag. At a minimum, since it is red that should clue them in that something is wrong. Now I do like using other colors for other meanings like using yellow tags for maintenance issues or white tags for safety issues. WARNING! Do not use yellow tags as a “maybe” tag as part of your 5S Red Tagging program. Some people want to put red tags on items that they know do not belong in the area and need to be moved to the Red Tag Holding Area and put yellow tags on items that they are not sure of. If you do it by this method you will find that you will get a lot of yellow tags because people won’t want to have to make up their minds or commit. Besides you will still have to disposition the items with yellow tags and then probably return the item to its home or have to place a red tag on it anyway. Save yourself the headache of having to go through this.

Here’s a link to watch a video that describes our different tags >>5S Red Tags and more

“The best approach is to dig out and eliminate problems where they are assumed not to exist.” – Shigeo Shingo

One Sunday my wife asked me if I would help her pull weeds on the side of our house. I want to stay a happily married man so of course I said “Yes.” We move into this old house (built in1929) last fall and are still getting used to the idea of living in the suburbs. When you live in a big city, in a condo, you pay maintenance fees and someone else does all this stuff for you. Well, it is our turn to be good stewards of this little house and we want to treat it right.

Small tree stump right next to house foundation.

The previous owner did a great job with the interior of the house with painting and decorating, but my nice way to say it is that she didn’t pay as much attention to the outside. We had a service come out last fall and trim back some of the trees, especially one that was growing right next to the foundation by the fireplace.

So while we were weeding, I really got into it and sought to get the weeds out by their roots. Some of these things were really big and really deep. Then I came up to the spot where the tree used to be and there blasting out of the ground were new shoots. So I started to dig. I dug a little more. I had to start digging in all directions just to try to find out where the roots were. Then my epiphany hit, this is exactly like trying to get to the root cause of any problem.

Sometimes it is easy to get to the root and pull it out. Sometimes you thing you got the root, only to find that it is coming back six months later. Sometimes you have to do a little digging. Sometimes you have to do a lot. Sometimes where you started is completely different where you ended (like some of the vines I dug up that traveled several feet away). This is exactly what it’s like when we are trying to do problem solving and root cause analysis.

What is really easy to understand is that, yes, it takes longer to get to the real root, but if you don’t it will just come up later again. How much time to we have to spend getting to the root cause? From my experience, I had to dig far enough so that I knew it wouldn’t grow back again. If I dug any less, it would show up again. If I dug more, it would be a waste of time. The key is to know when to say when. 

Many organizations do not give their employees enough time, tools or training to let them truly get to the right level of root cause analysis. Take a lesson from digging in the weeds – don’t stop short or you’ll just see the problem again in the future and don’t dig too far or you’ll be wasting time, energy and effort. Find the right amount that you can move on to other areas and make them better.

Here are some resources that will help you with problem solving & A3, error-proofing (poka-yoke) and getting to the root cause. I hope this helps. – Tony

“Improvement usually means doing something that we have never done before.” – Shigeo Shingo

We were facilitating a 5S Event in a customer service area of a carton manufacturer and noticed something special during the first “S” Sort. The team was sorting through items in the area and affixing 5S Red Tags to them. The 5S Red Tags were pre-printed with string already attached to the tag. When in a factory, it is easy to use pre-wired 5S Red Tags for unneeded items. That is probably the most common method. What we noticed while in the office is that the team members were using masking tape to attach the tags to the items like boxes, files, cabinets, prototypes and so on.

After the event Jennifer, from 5S Supply said “Why can’t we just have a Post-it™ Note style 5S Red Tag?” That’s how the 5S Sticky Tag got started. When you think of kaizen (continuous improvement), this is a great example. Jennifer saw a way to improve something and then it was implemented. While creating the sample tag the team decided to add other features to make it even easier to use and fill out. The team tried the tag out in many conditions and found that it would stick to any surface that a super-sticky Post-it™ note would. They also decided that check boxes would speed up filling out the tag and help categorize the reason for tagging and disposition. Two check boxes were added specifically because of our work in hospitals implementing Lean – recycle (as part of being “Green”) and shred (in case it has confidential information on it). Because they are peel & stick, it will speed up your red tagging process. To make it convenient, the team decided to package the 5S Sticky Tags in two packs of 50 for 100 tags total per pack. Since first offering these revolutionary tags in 2009 we haven’t rested on our laurels. As part of kaizen, we now offer an even stickier tag. The team also came up with a tagline (no pun intended) to help describe what they thought 5S Red Tagging could do – “Changing the World, one tag at a time.” This may seem amusing but when you think of it, kaizen is about little changes over time for the better.

So as part of our 4th Anniversary month this August, we are offering a Free Sample Pack of our tags with any order. Just add the product Tag Sample Pack TGR-000 to your order – no charge. One sample pack per customer please.

This is a very special occasion for us at 5S Supply. August is our fourth anniversary and we are pleased to announce that we have added more than 250 new items to our website www.5Ssupply.com!

So the quote I have chosen for this week speaks very dearly to me.

“Don’t aim for success if you want it; just do what you love and believe in, and it will come naturally.” – David Frost

As you can tell from my blog postings or if you have seen me give a presentation, I am very passionate about Lean. One of the reasons I have a devotion to Lean is because it is about making things easier. So to practice what we preach, we made our 5S Supply website easier to find the items you need and to order them.

This expansion in our catalog may seem new to you, but we knew that this day would come from our Hoshin planning that started over three years ago. We took time to find unique and innovative products and organize them in a way that would make it easy for a Lean practitioner or a Purchasing Agent to find what they are looking for by Category or by Subject.

Another feature that we have added is “How-to” videos, product videos and interviews too. We will continue to add more as we progress. Please take a look at my birthday message – 5S Supply’s 4th Anniversary.

Let us know what you think. Is there something you would like to see on our site that we don’t already have? Is there something you wish a Lean site would provide? Let us know, we want to make your Lean experience better. As with all these changes, we changed our Mission Statement –

To help organizations on their Lean journey.


We started with something longer and then we realized that why not make is Lean – clear, concise and to-the-point. We also updated our logo to include the word Lean as we expand far beyond 5S. In order to capture the spirit of this our motto is now

“Lean Simplified. Everything you need, all in one place.”

So please join us in our celebration as we will be making special announcements all month long.

Thank you for your support and may we continue to help you with your Lean initiatives. – Tony