5S That Actually Works

December 5, 2011

Six month ago we did a quick, one-day kaizen event focused on Visual Workplace in two areas of an office – the fax/printing area and the marketing shipping area. The team did a great job of getting things organized and visual with signs, lines, and labels.

Fast forward six months – this time we were going to do a quick 5S training event in a production area. The operations director was doing the training (his first time and he did a great job!) and he had the team go look at the office areas that we did six months earlier because they were close to the training room. I tagged along and couldn’t believe my eyes. The areas were not just as good as six months ago they were even better!

Before Visuals













End of Kaizen Event













Six months after













I asked a couple of the office workers how they did it. This is what they said:

  • “There are about only six people that use this area so it’s easy to keep an eye on it.”
  • “Once we got it organized and labeled, it just maintains itself.”
  • “You just make sure you don’t leave anything in the area.”
  • “It’s easier because we know where everything is and where it belongs.”
  • “We hold each other accountable if anything is out of place.”

One of the customer service reps mentioned that she needed to laminate something and she never used the laminator before. She said it was simple and easy because they posted a “One-Point Lesson” right on the wall by the laminator.

There was some resistance when we first did the labeling – “Everyone knows what that is.” But now, it is self-evident when things are in their right place or not. This has helped tremendously to sustaining and improving the gains achieved!

So see, there may be hope for your 5S system after all!

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