Here is en excerpt and link to a recent column in SME’ Manufacturing Engineering magazine, SME Speaks column “Lean Today and Tomorrow”

“As I transition from my position as chair of SME’s Lean Certification Oversight and Appeals Committee, I have had the chance to reflect on where we have been and where we are going in the lean, operational excellence or continuous improvement world. The title of this SME Speaks is a takeoff on Henry Ford’s 1926 classic book Today and Tomorrow, and will focus on where lean and certification are today and my prediction of where they will be tomorrow…”

To read the entire story, click here>> SME Speaks




Tool Tracer A Place for Everything

Tool Tracer TM Tool Shadows are a low cost solution to stay organized! Don’t waste time searching for tools.

5S Supply has updated and created new Tool TracerTM Tool Shadows. These shadows make it easy to identify when a tool is not in its proper place and will help you “Sustain” your 5S efforts with “tool recoil”. We now have many styles and colors to choose from.

DIY Kits

Tool Tracer Tool-ID Band

Includes our exclusive Tool Tracer Tool-ID Band

The DIY Kits come in a standard 25 piece set or a full 50 piece set. There are 11 colors to choose from: Red, Pink, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Purple, Brown, Black, Grey, and White; the most colors offered in the industry. Mark your tools with the exclusive Tool-ID BandTM to match the tool shadow and location to stay organized and instantly know if something is missing or out of place.

Other Tool TracerTM Tool Shadows

  • Tool TracerTM Tool Shadow Rolls to customize your own solution
  • Shipping & Packing Station 5-piece Set
  • Broom & Dustpan Set


The Tool TracerTM Tool Shadows adhere to all types of pegboards including: wood, plastic or metal – as well as: glass, concrete, desktops or workbenches, and dry erase boards. Just peel & stick. Our Tool TracerTM Tool Shadows come with a One-point Lesson on how to apply.

Tool TracerTM Tool Shadows are Patent Pending.


  • Standard tool shapes or rolls to create customized shapes
  • Exclusive Tool-ID BandTM
  • 3 mil polymeric-blend glossy opaque calendered vinyl film
  • Long lasting, 4 year interior or exterior durability
  • Sunlight fade resistant
  • Clear permanent adhesive
  • Patent Pending


  • Mark your tools and location to stay organized and instantly know if something is missing or out of place
  • Don’t waste time searching for things, get projects and work done quicker with less effort
  • Visually pleasing and professional looking
  • Less stress when you know where your tools are
  • Sets a standard that anyone can follow
  • Perfect for 5S Set-in-order and a visual workplace

For more information, click here>> Tool Tracer Tool Shadows

We hosted an impromptu poll on our website where we asked “What Lean initiative tops your priority list in 2014?” We gave them the following choices just to simplify the responses:

  • 5S
  • Cellular/Flow
  • Pull Systems/Kanban
  • Kaizen/Continuous Improvement
  • Total Productive Maintenance

The results surprised me a little. I was shocked to see 5S being the largest percentage of responses; but then I thought that this probably made sense for two reasons: 1) many companies start their lean journey with 5S, and 2) it was probably biased since the website is 5S Supply (although we carry everything lean). The next thing that caught my eye was that Cellular/Flow had no responses – zero. Flow is one of the things that we are trying to create with lean so I was amazed to see that no one responded that they would have a focus on it this year. It was nice to see that 21 percent of the respondents selected Kaizen/Continuous Improvement as a major priority. I think organizations get too caught up in only using Kaizen Events (a.k.a. Rapid Improvement Events, Kaizen Blitz, etc.) and forget about the daily kaizen – as our friends Bruce Hamilton and Pat Wardwell from GBMP said it in their book (e2 Continuous Improvement System) “Everybody, Everyday”. To finish out the poll, only some responded that they would focus on creating Pull Systems/Kanban and even fewer mentioned Total Productive Maintenance (TPM).

I know this was just a quick polling questions and I wouldn’t read too much into the results, but what do you think?

2014 Lean Priority Poll Results

Gauge Range MArking System

Gauge Range Marking System

We invented Gauge RangeTM years ago because we saw companies marking their gauges with tape, markers, paint and other ineffective methods. I applaud their wishes to mark their gauges to make them easier to read and know that they are in the correct operating range, but most of the time this haphazard method provided short-lived, sub-optimum results. Prior to this, there were other companies offering sheets of translucent vinyl that you have to cut yourself to mark the gauge. That’s where we applied the Lean principle of adding value for the customer – we did the tough job for you – we pre-cut the self-adhesive, 5-year outdoor vinyl into the most common sizes of gauge faces to making it simple to do!

Gauge Range is easy to use and apply and makes your visual workplace more effective! With our Gauge Range Marking System, it is straightforward to see when everything is “good-to-go”.

What sets our Gauge Range apart?

  • We did the hard work for you – our gauge marking system comes pre-cut, with three most common sizes 1′, 2′ and 2-1/2′ plus full sheet to customize to your needs
  • Includes rectangular shapes that are also great for liquid level indicators
  • Perfect for monitoring your equipment quickly and easily
  • Train someone in seconds as to the correct operating range
  • Comes with enough material to easily mark more than 20 gauges
  • Made from 5-year outdoor grade vinyl, Gauge Range should last for years in most environments
  • Easy to apply in seconds

Check out our video on how to use Gauge Range>> Gauge Marking

One set includes:

  • 1 sheet Red with (10) 1”, (10) 2”, (10) 2 ½” diameter circles and (8) ½”strips
  • 1 sheet Yellow with (10) 1”, (10) 2”, (10) 2 ½” diameter circles and (8) ½”strips
  • 1 sheet Green with (10) 1”, (10) 2”, (10) 2 ½” diameter circles and (8) ½”strips
  • 1 full sheet Red uncut 11″ x 13″
  • 1 full sheet Yellow uncut 11″ x 13″
  • 1 full sheet Green uncut 11″ x 13″

In stock, ready to ship.

SKU: LB-030 $42.00

Includes a free Kanban card for easy reordering!

Learning the Ropes

August 12, 2013

This weekend we had one of those wonderful Chicago summer days that you always dream about especially when our weather can be so unpredictable. I had the splendid opportunity to sail on the tall ship “Lynx” which was here as part of the Tall Ships exhibit at Navy Pier. Not that I am always thinking about Lean or how organizations’ tick, but there were two things that struck a chord with me during our adventure.

Lynx sailing ship

Lynx sailing ship

Tall Ship Lynx

Here’s a little background on the Lynx. Lynx is a square topsail schooner based in Newport Beach, California. She is an interpretation of an American letter of marque vessel of the same name from 1812. The original Lynx completed one voyage, running the Royal Navy blockade; the British captured her in 1813 at the start of her second voyage.1


What impressed me was how they were able to get underway and set sail with such a small crew (with minimal help from us land lubbers). The Captain would call out an order, the First Mate and crew would call it back verbatim. There were many things going on, but the hands knew what they we supposed to do (standardized work). If one of the less experienced crew members did something that wasn’t up to standard the more experienced deck hand would show him or her how to do it correctly or the First Mate would take the time to do a short coaching moment.

Roger and Tony sporting the 5S Supply Champion Cap

Roger and Tony sporting the 5S Supply Champion Cap

They worked together as a team to get the task done efficiently and safely. The Captain (read: CEO) knew where he wanted to go. It was up to the crew to make it happen. The ship was large enough that there was no way that the Captain could see what everyone was doing. He had to trust the crew (read: respect for people) to carry out the orders with the help of the First Mate (read: front line supervisor).


Learning the Ropes

Learning the Ropes

This might seem like a simple one, but it dawned on me when I saw the crew at work “learning the ropes.” As a new crew member it could be overwhelming to know all the ropes that connect to the rigging and other parts of the ships. I asked one of the deckhands what it was like to “learn the ropes?” She said that it took her about a week and a lot of practice to understand where all the ropes go. She also mentioned how she was well-trained and that the crew was willing to help her out when she had questions or was unsure – now that’s pulling together!

It’s amazing what we can learn by visiting different groups, teams, companies and so on. Be open to new ideas. You may also be surprised how many of our Lean principles have been practiced for centuries without us even noticing. So let’s weigh anchor and get underway!

Reference: 1. Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lynx_(tall_ship)

Why Hourly Production Display Boards are Important

5S Supply 60-Minute Board ExampleUsing Hourly Boards (a.k.a. 60-Minute Boards or Production Boards) are a great way to keep your team informed on whether production is on-target, ahead or behind. Waiting until the end of the shift to find out if you met the planned production for the day is a little too late to do anything about it. Real-time information would be best, but sometimes that is costly to setup or takes a lot of effort to perform.  Takt-time awareness is great for an operator so she knows if she is on pace. A different level of responsiveness is needed for management, if you were a supervisor you probably wouldn’t want to hear every minute that “We’re on-time.” A pitch increment or pack-out quantity may be better, but that too may not fit every situation especially outside of manufacturing. The type of display board we suggest is perfect for manufacturing production areas, office and support functions, and even healthcare. Use them anywhere you want to see if you are on target or not.

If end-of-shift or real-time aren’t the appropriate solution to communicate production levels, what is? The answer is Hourly Boards. Using a mechanism where on a consistent basis the actual units produced is compared to the planned amount is recorded; any countermeasures for errors can be incorporated closer to real-time. Having your team involved with creating the board is the first step. Ask them what they would like to see on the board. By including your team members not only do you get better ideas by having more input, you build buy-in with your team members because they were part of the solution. You can also discuss the reason or need for the boards – which it will help with understanding abnormal situations. Tell them the “why” before you work on the “How”.

Using the Hourly Board for its Intended Use – Communication

Start the day with a short start-up meeting. Mention any open issues from the day before, any changes to the upcoming schedule, changeovers, maintenance items, 5S, and any: quality, cost, delivery, and safety items. During the shift, communicate any issues that come up – especially any reasons that the target conditions weren’t met. Assign the appropriate person (hopefully someone closest to the process) to help investigate the root cause and coach them to propose a countermeasure. Have a quick end-of-shift meeting at the board to review the day’s work. Talk about what went well, what didn’t, opportunities for improvement, upcoming schedules, and so on.

Advantages of Hourly Display Boards

One of the advantages of using a manual display board (versus electronic – hey, don’t worry I like those too) is that a person has to take responsibility to write the actual hourly production number on the board. This is a tactile process – the person has to grab a dry-erase marker, uncap it and write the actual hourly production number on the board, now they own that number. To visually enhance this experience a green marker should be used when the production number is met or exceeded (along with a congratulatory note would be nice). A red marker should be used whenever the target or planned number is not achieved along with an explanation why and a proposed countermeasure. The target units and can be written in black and notes for the team can be in blue. These visual indicators will make it simple and easy for the people on the team to get a grasp of the situation quickly and without any guessing.

Stay tuned for Part 2 – Setting Up an Hourly Display Board

Check out 5S Supply’s exclusive Hourly Board Kit video below

Hourly Production Board from 5S Supply on Vimeo.

I wanted to share some thoughts from the recent 25th Annual International Shingo Conference in Provo, Utah.


Lead_ButtonI was lucky enough to attend Bob Miller’s eye-opening LEAD workshop. This session is perfect for leaders who want to understand what’s missing in their long-term success – a balance of results and behaviors. It also made me realize the difference between values and behaviors. Many organizations have written down their values (you may see them on posters on the walls in the office or boardroom), but how people interpret values is different. I remember in one of Bob’s previous presentations where he shows a cartoon with a cop and robbers. The robbers have tattoos on their arms that say “teamwork, integrity, focus”; they are showing their values. The funny part is the policeman has a notepad while interviewing the little old lady that was robbed and on the back of his notepad it says “teamwork, integrity, focus.” The police and the robbers both have the same values; it is their behaviors that are different. We need to align a company’s ideal behaviors along with ideal results. To help illustrate the point that the lean tools would only get us so far he showed a partially finished bridge. In the Lean world we were so focused on teaching the tools that we didn’t complete the bridge. We need to add systems and principles to the tools. The session also emphasizes that a leader’s job is to spend 80% of his or her time on the “why” of the behaviors in three ways: leader to leader, leader to manager and leader to associate. Explaining, communicating, teaching, coaching, and modeling the ideal behaviors to help elicit the ideal results.

For more information click here>> Shingo LEAD