Three Cheers for 2010

December 31, 2010

I would like to give three cheers to 5S Supply as we close-out Year 2010!

Cheer #1 – Expanding our website way beyond just 5S

Throughout the year we continually added new products and services, but I am especially proud that in August we introduced hundreds of products related to Lean. In our original hoshin plan for 5S Supply we purposely started out with items specific to 5S. We wanted to prove the idea that a web-based business focused on having items for people performing kaizen events was feasible. Even four years ago we had in our hoshin plan to expand beyond 5S into all aspects of Lean. Now we offer the largest selections of items for Lean practitioners.

Cheer #2 – Great New Products

One of the main things that sets 5S Supply apart from our competition is our creation of unique and innovative items based on our real-world experience in leading kaizen events for clients. Two items that were top sellers in 2010 were our Tool Tracer Vinyl and 5S Sticky Tags. Our Tool Tracer Vinyl is an economical way to visually create shadows for items for easy identification, retrieval and recoil. We purposely gave our customers the option of multiple colors and in two styles – sheets or rolls.

The 5S Sticky Tag was invented by our very own Customer Care Manager, Jennifer Molski, when she participated in a 5S Event in an office setting. She noticed that when the participants were 5S Red Tagging they would just tape the tags to the items. She wondered why we couldn’t just have a post-it style tag and voila, the 5S Sticky Tag was born.

Cheer #3 – Free Stuff

One of our top downloads for 2010 was our version of the 5S Numbers Game. This is a great way to train anyone in the basic concepts of 5S. We created a PowerPoint presentation along with all the forms needed to share this training with your employees.

Another top winner in the Free category were our 5S Supply Lean Webinars. We decided to offer a free webinar during our fourth anniversary month of August and it was a big success. Since then, we continue to offer free webinars. Our 2011 series will be starting soon. Check back for more details.

So three cheers to 5S Supply, our partners and our customers! Without you we couldn’t be helping the world be a better place through Lean implementations. So here’s to 2011! All the best in the New Year. – Tony

11 Things for Lean in 2011

December 27, 2010

To wind-down 2010 I thought it would be fun to come up with a list of eleven things to do in 2011 related to lean. Maybe there is something on the list that will spark your imagination. These are in no particular order.

1. Go to a conference

There are many good conferences related to lean out there. If you have been any one of these before I highly recommend it. You’ll get a great opportunity to learn, network and make friends with other like-minded lean professionals.

2. Attend a webinar

Attending a webinar is an alternative to travel to a conference and a quick way to learn more about a subject. There are many great sources for webinars available and this is great way to train your team.5S Supply will continue with its highly popular and FREE webinar series in 2011. Check back each month to see what the new subject is.

3. Attend a class on Lean

Sit in a one of the many Lean courses that are offered throughout the year and come away with some new knowledge. I know that one of the best ways to learn is hands-on, but an alternative is to learn and then apply. You can either pick a new subject on lean that you want to learn more about or do a ‘deep-dive’ session to become an expert in a specific area of lean. I thoroughly enjoy when I get to teach our two-day Lean Enterprise course and one-day Lean Kaizen course for ASQ. Come check it out if you get a chance.

4. Watch a video

Check out a video on lean. This is another fantastic way to share information about lean with people at work. I am currently working with SME to update their Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) video and it will be out in 2011. This will be a case study of one of my clients and how they performed a TPM Kaizen Event around several pieces of production equipment. I’ll keep you posted when it becomes available. At 5S Supply, we will be adding more videos to our website and YouTube channel throughout the year focused on lean subjects and our “One-Minute, One-Point Lesson” video series. Stay tuned for more.

5. Read a book

In a world were the average person doesn’t even complete one book in a year, you can stand out by reading a book (or two or three) on any lean subject. The number of books on lean has exploded over the last five years; practically any concept in lean has a book now. Another major project I’ll be working on (along with many others) in 2011 will be a Lean Handbook based off of the Body of Knowledge for the Lean Certification (see #6 below). This is a great project that I am honored to be part of. For the largest selection of lean book please visit 5S Supply

6. Get Lean Certified

AME, SME, Shingo Prize and ASQ have all teamed up to provide you with the premier Lean Certification. I was lucky enough to be one of the original team members that worked on creating this certification five years ago and currently I am an ASQ representative to the Certification Oversight and Appeals Committee. Becoming certified shows your commitment to lean and that you have a basic understanding of the BOK.

7. Find another company that you can benchmark with

This one actually started because one of my lean practitioner friends in Chicago asked me to help link him up with other companies that are doing 5S. He wanted to show his 5S Champions what other companies are doing and have an opportunity to benchmark & network. Check to see if there is a Lean Consortium in your area or even start one yourself. There are several resources that will help you including local sections/chapters of ASQ or SME, AME regions, LEI’s Forums or possibly LinkedIn.

8. Write a Lean article for your company or organization’s newsletter

Consider writing a short article for your companies newsletter or intranet. You can write about a recent kaizen event, share a “One Good Idea”, explain a lean concept or just pick something of interest to you. If you want to start a newsletter at your organization we offer free word templates to get you started.

9. Make a video about one of your kaizen events and post it on YouTube

If you don’t feel like writing maybe you can make a short video (with your company’s permission of course) and post it on YouTube. Once again, you can show clips for a recent kaizen event, show some before & after lean ideas, or even have some fun and make a parody video. We’re always looking for good content for our video channel, so if you have something worthwhile please feel free to contact me. 5S Supply will be adding more videos this year including “How to’s”, new product demonstrations and interviews with lean experts.

10.  Coach or mentor

Find someone in your organization that you could coach or mentor in lean. There is no greater way to learn lean than have to teach someone else. This can be a very rewarding experience for both you and you apprentice. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate; just agree to meet periodically and talk lean.

11.  Relax

Well, this is a no-brainer. Even if you did a couple of the things on this list you should be proud of yourself. Take some time for yourself and relax, maybe even do a little honest reflection or to create deeper understanding of lean.


I think that’s enough to get us started for 2011. On a personal note, I would like to thank everyone that has read my blog, forwarded it, bookmarked it, shared it with a friend and even commented on it. I don’t know if I really knew what it would take to do one of these, but it has been a rewarding experience for me over the last year. If you have a subject you’d like to see or ideas you’d like to share, please let me know. I am refocusing my efforts to provide you with relevant content over the next year.

So here’s to 2011, let’s make it our best lean year yet! Have a Happy and Safe New Year.

Thanks – Tony

The recent announcement that Donner and Blitzen have elected to take the early reindeer retirement package has triggered a good deal of concern about whether they will be replaced, and about other restructuring decisions at the North Pole.

Streamlining was appropriate in view of the reality that the North Pole no longer dominates the season’s gift distribution business. Home shopping channels and mail order catalogs have diminished Santa’s market share and he could not sit idly by and permit further erosion of the profit picture. The reindeer downsizing was made possible through the purchase of a late model Japanese sled for the CEO’s annual trip. Improved productivity from Dasher and Dancer, who summered at the Harvard Business School, is anticipated and should take up the slack with no discernible loss of service. Reduction in reindeer will also lessen airborne environmental emissions for which the North Pole has been cited and received unfavorable press.

I am pleased to inform you and yours that Rudolph’s role will not be disturbed.  Tradition still counts for something at the North Pole. Management denies, in the strongest possible language, the earlier leak that Rudolph’s nose got that way not from the cold, but from substance abuse. Calling Rudolph “a lush who was into the sauce and never did pull his share of the load” was an unfortunate comment, made by one of Santa’s helpers and taken out of context at a time of year when he is known to be under executive stress.

As a further restructuring, today’s global challenges require the North Pole to continue to look for better, more competitive steps. Effective immediately, the following economy measures are to take place in the “Twelve Days of Chris tmas” subsidiary: The partridge will be retained, but the pear tree never turned out to be the cash crop forecasted. It will be replaced by a plastic hanging plant, providing considerable savings in maintenance.

The two turtle doves represent a redundancy that is simply not cost effective.  In addition, their romance during working hours could not be condoned. The positions are therefore eliminated.

The three French hens will remain intact. After all, everyone loves the French.

The four calling birds were replaced by an automated voice mail system, with a call waiting option. An analysis is underway to determine who the birds have been calling, how often and how long they talked.

The five golden rings have been put on hold by the Board of Directors. Maintaining a portfolio based on one commodity could have negative implications for institutional investors. Diversification into other precious metals as well as a mix of T-Bills and high technology stocks appear to be in order.

The six geese-a-laying constitutes a luxury which can no longer be afforded. It has long been felt that the production rate of one egg per goose per day is an example of the decline in productivity. Three geese will be let go, and an upgrading in the selection procedure by personnel will assure management that from now on every goose it gets will be a good one.

The seven swans-a-swimming is obviously a number chosen in better times. The function is primarily decorative. Mechanical swans are on order. The current swans will be retrained to learn some new strokes and therefore enhance their outplacement.

As you know, the eight maids-a-milking concept has been under heavy scrutiny by the EEOC. A male/female balance in the work force is being sought. The more militant maids consider this a dead-end job with no upward mobility. Automation of the process may permit the maids to try a-mending, a-mentoring or a-mulching.

Nine ladies dancing has always been an odd number. This function will be phased out as these individuals grow older and can no longer do the steps.

The Lords-a-leaping is overkill. The high cost of Lords plus the expense of international air travel prompted the Compensation Committee to suggest replacing this group with ten out-of-work congressmen. While leaping ability may be somewhat sacrificed, the savings are significant because we expect an oversupply of unemployed congressmen this year.

Eleven pipers piping and twelve drummers drumming is a simple case of the band getting too big. A substitution with a string quartet, a cutback on new music and no uniforms will produce savings which will drop right down to the bottom line.

We can expect a substantial reduction in assorted people, fowl, animals and other expenses. Though incomplete, studies indicate that stretching deliveries over twelve days is inefficient. If we can drop ship in one day, service levels will be improved.

Regarding the lawsuit filed by the attorneys association seeking expansion to include the legal profession (“thirteen lawyers-a-suing”) action is pending. Lastly, it is not beyond consideration that deeper cuts may be necessary in the future to stay competitive. Should that happen, The Board will request management to scrutinize the Snow White Division to see if seven dwarfs is the right number.

Happy Holidays!

Blog note: I don’t know who the original author was (not me), but if you find out let me know. My sister sent this to me and I thought I would share it with all of you.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and Happy Holidays to All – Tony

I have been lucky enough to be working with a government agency that is implementing a new system. As part of the implementation we are using Lean tools like Value Stream Mapping and quality tools like SIPOC (Supplier-Input-Process-Output-Customer) diagrams, Fishbone (a.k.a. Cause and Effect, or Ishikawa) diagrams along with creating procedures and measures that would comply with the ISO 9001 Quality Management System standard.

One of the things that struck me was when we were looking at particular tasks and used the Value Stream Mapping data point of Accurate & Complete (a.k.a. Complete & Accurate or C&A) is that we could go a little further to make this even more relevant. To me, A&C is one term, meaning that the information given to you has to be accurate and complete or else it is a defect. Think of it as First Pass Yield (FPY) for information. I usually ask the participants to give ma an estimate based on a percentage. I’ll ask “out of 100 or out of ten how many times are you missing information or the information is incorrect?” Then I will ask how many times out of 100 do you ever hear back that what you did (your process) was missing information or had wrong information? I call this the feedback number. I invented this years ago when I realized that when value stream mapping in office, service or healthcare functions, when a mistake is introduced into the system it may be several steps down the value stream before anyone notices. Sometimes the person that finds the error just fixes it and the person who made the error never finds out. Other times, they send the error back for correction and this takes additional resources and time. All of this can be seen as waste.

While we were discussing A&C, the comment came up that it is extremely important in this case that the reports are also timely. These reports relied on information being entered into the system by a certain time so that others could use the data and generate other important reports. If the information is late either the reports are delayed or they may go out missing important information once again reducing A&C. This made me think of (leader) standard work from David Mann’s book “Creating a Lean Culture”. So I began to think that we needed to create a new VSM data point like “% Late” or “% On-time”. This may be a way that we could monitor this complex process through the ISO 9001 Quality Management System using VSM measures & metrics.

I know that Toyota or other lean companies do not have to have ISO 9001 certification, but for some companies, pursuing ISO 9001 is a good idea. I think that in the world of Lean we could help out by streamlining the processes, reducing waste and helping create a better QMS.

What do you think? Do Lean and ISO 9001 go together? Let me know your thoughts.

Thanks, Tony

In 5S, why does ‘Sort’ come before ‘Set-in-order’?

While performing a 5S Event last week in a job shop we ran across the typical workbench for operators. Let me give you a little background information about this kaizen event. This was a well thought out event because the company was relocating one of its machines (a vertical boring mill) and they decided it would be a great idea to do a 5S around the machine in its new area. This company is relatively new to Lean and 5S; this was their second 5S event. Some of the team members had 5S experience at previous employers. 

There were two things that I found amazing from this event: 1) the power of Sort, and 2) the ability of operators to be able to see things in a new way.

The power of the first “S” in 5S – ‘Sort’

There was a workbench that they brought over from the old work area. The team just assumed that they would use it in the new area. When we applied ‘Sort’ to the workbench, clearing out all the things they didn’t need using the 5S Red Tag Technique, the team realized that there wasn’t that much that they actually needed from the bench. The supervisor, who likes to be organized by his nature, explained that he had all the items in the workbench pretty organized, but his ‘ah-ha’ moment came when he realized he was organizing things they really didn’t need. The power of ‘Sort’ came through like a freight train. Why organize things you don’t need in the work area? This seems obvious to anyone, but I would challenge you to go to your work areas and see if anything needs to be Red Tagged. He realized that he spent time organizing (Set-in-Order) things that he didn’t need to and that this was waste.

The workbench after 'Sort'.

5S red tagged items removed from the workbench.










Operators Seeing Waste

Now I am very sensitive to the workbenches around equipment and machines. These tend to become very personal for the machinists or operators. When I approach this topic, I’ll be aware of the sensitive nature of what I am about to suggest. As you all know, a horizontal surface can become a potential area for items to accumulate. When it comes to workbenches, it seems that they have far too many things on them and are much bigger than the need to be. So I will challenge (in a nice way) the operators to see if there is something else they could use other than a workbench or at least a smaller workbench. At first, I’ll get strange looks like I am trying to take away all their freedom but after thoughtful questions and discussions the operators usually see the waste that they have because of the bench including motion (walking) and search time. In this particular case they decided that they didn’t need a big bench. The team decided on a tool shadow board with only the tools they needed for operation and set-ups, and a small work table to measure parts. My favorite part was when an operator came up to me and said that he never thought they would ever get rid of the old bench. He was amazed that when you look at things with an open mind what a better solution you cold come up with. Kudos to those operators who see this and are willing to change!

Don’t waste you time organizing what you don’t need. ‘Sort’ first!

Well, I hope everyone survived Thanksgiving with nothing worse than a full stomach. We quickly moved on to “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday.” I’m surprised we made it through all that no worse for the wear.

Now, I have to mention that a lot of things in my life I claim to be Just-in-Time (JIT). I think I usually say that if I am trying to do something right before the deadline. So I will admit that when it comes to Christmas shopping I can be very JIT, as in December 24th. A friend of mine mentioned “What of you applied Lean to your Christmas shopping practices?” What a strange concept, but here it goes.

My first thought was to not buy any presents at all, therefore saving me all the time and money involved. I could reinvest that time and effort into something more useful (like writing better blog postings). Just think of all the waste I avoided – no inventory, no transportation, no defects (as in getting the wrong gift). I might go down in history as one of the greatest Lean Holiday thinkers of all time! Oh wait, I also might go down as the ultimate Scrooge. Besides I think I should at least get something for my wife to be on the safe side.

That brings me to me second thought of how to apply Lean to holiday shopping – have my wife do it for me. Once again, I could save a lot of time not having to fight traffic to go to the mall, spend my time searching for the perfect gift and hopefully finding a salesperson that would check me out – all in time to make it back to watch the football game on TV. After thinking about this approach I found that there may be some flaws. For instance, if I allow my wife to get her own present, I may have gotten her something really, really expensive this year without even knowing it. Good for her; not so good for my wallet. On the other hand, she might get me socks, just socks. I think I need to alter this approach. Maybe I could hire a professional shopper. Well, once again I’m not sure what the results would be, plus the expense. I’ll have to pass on that one for now.

O.k. I think I am getting warmer. Maybe I could do all my Christmas shopping on-line this year. Do a few Google searches, find something that I think is nice and just plunk down the ol’ credit card. Sounds like a plan to me. I missed “Cyber Monday”, but maybe they’ll allow me a second chance. Besides everyone offers free shipping on-line now. I have a friend that tells me he ONLY buys if they offer free shipping. I have to remind him that “Free shipping is not free”, just ask Milton Friedman (Nobel Prize Winning Economist, “There no such thing as a free lunch.”).

Well, at this point I think I’ll have to come up with some other ideas on how to make holiday shopping lean. I could just rely on Santa, but he’s a pretty busy guy this time of year. If you have any ideas or suggestions for me, let me know. I only have three weeks left!

Thanks and good luck with your list! – Tony