Here’s a quick list of things related to 5S and Lean that you can easily do to celebrate Earth Day and make your workplace (and our planet) better.

  1. RTS-103_02_ThumbnailGo to your 5S Red Tag Holding Area and see if there is something there that can be recycled. Maybe there is something that you could re-purpose or use in your work area. This will save your organization money from having to buy a new item and you extended the life of an item you already have.
  2. Organize some consumable items in your work area. Determine the best location for them. Consider using Point-of-Use-Storage (or a Kanban System – like Kanban Indicator Bins); this will help reduce motionKBN-001_In_Rack_View and transportation waste. Determine how many you actually need and who replenishes  hem. This alone may help you reduce the unnecessary inventory you carry and reduce the waste of inventory or storage.
  3. Put a “Shine” on your workplace. Clean and inspect your work area – this not only will make your spot seem nicer and more pleasant to be in, it can also help improve the air quality, reduce allergens and germs.
  4. Create Standards for a task in your work area. Work with your team to determine the best way to get a task done and then standardize it. This will help you be more efficient and effective plus everyone will do it the same way so it makes it more consistent and easier to train new people.
  5. RTS-106_02_ThumbnailKeep 5S going by sustaining your efforts. Consider using our exclusive 5S Sustain Campaign Board. You can assign 5S related tasks to team members each week to keep 5S forefront in their minds while help to continuously improve your work space.

Remember to Reduce-Reuse-Recycle! 5S and Lean are a great way to help.

One major problem organizations face when trying to implement 5S is knowing how to do it correctly. Let me give you five tips on how to setup an effective 5S System.


1. Realize that 5S is a system

5S should never just be thought of as just a Kaizen Event or program. Programs come and go and they have a connotation of having an end date. Nor should 5S be a series of disconnect 5S events to clean your workplace. Like any living system, you need to nurture and take care of it. You have to realize that for 5S to truly sustain you need to understand that it is a system made up of process that use tools to get results that change or improve your culture (see figure on right).

2. Set-up a 5S Design Team

Don’t expect 5S just to grow organically just because you think everyone should know what 5S is and how to apply it. I recommend that you implement a 5S Design Team to direct the efforts of your 5S System. Have them develop your 5S Vision, Goals, Objectives, 5S Implementation Plan, Communication Plan, Learning Plan and Reward & Recognition Plan.

For more information on 5S Design Teams and how to setup your 5S System send us a message at trainer@5Ssupply.com and ask about our “5S Total Support System.”

3. Take the time to make the time for 5S

Comments like “Do you want us to do our work or do 5S” shows that people don’t understand the importance of an effective 5S System. I read a study that mentioned people spend about 28 minutes a day searching for items. If we can reduce the search time by implementing 5S, we automatically have found time to perform 5S. If we can save 10-15 minutes a day by not searching for things, then we just created 10-15 minutes per day for 5S. The key is to use that time for 5S and not some other activity. As the 5S sensei Hiroyuki Hurano said “Behind all workplace successes or failures are the 5S.”

4. Spend more time on the 4th “S” Standardize

I hear it all the time, “Tony, we have 5S but can’t seem to sustain it.” Having done this for many years and trying to apply the good old PDCA cycle, I tell the person that they should re-look at their Standardize efforts. As part of Standardize, you need to make up the rules for the first three “S’s” (Sort, Set-in-Order, and Shine) but more importantly you need to follow and enforce the rules. This is the secret. If you can’t do this, then of course you can’t sustain. The power of setting standards is that you immediately see when something is abnormal or out-of-standard. Once this is recognized, you can fix it. If you don’t set standards, how will everyone know if something is wrong or what needs to be improved? Do yourself a favor and spend more effective time on the fourth S – Standardize.

5S Sustain Campaign Board

5. To Sustain you have to make Sustain an integral part of your 5S System

I remember talking with a Lean consultant friend of mine about 5S Red Tags (used in the first “S” Sort). He said he usually just had his team cut red construction paper to make red tags. I asked him that if the tags were just made for the Kaizen Event how anyone on the team would think that 5S is forever? I mentioned that we have pre-printed 5S Red Tags  that are easy to get (in several styles). These look much more professional and fitting of a world-class 5S System. I also told him about our 5S Red Tag Stations, Holding Area Kits and our exclusive 5S Sustain Campaign Board. When the tools you use make things looks more permanent then it is easier for people to understand that 5S is not just a one-time thing. This is a simple way to help Sustain your 5S System.

I hope these tips helped. For more, you can download a free copy of our benchmarking report “The Very Best of 5S”.

Let me know what you think. – Tony

"Old" location

I had a lot of fun working with a great team performing a 5S in a manufacturing area last week. This was the company’s first official 5S event so we treated it as a “learn-do” occasion. We did all the usual things associated with 5S – red tagging, setting items in order, cleaning & inspection, creating standards, etc. But, my favorite part was the team working on tool shadow boards (as part of “Set-in-order”).

Some of the team members that have been part of companies that have applied 5S before came up to me to let me know that their tool shadow boards don’t work. In fact, they even went as far as to say that they have never seen tool shadow boards work effectively.

Of course, I had to ask why tools shadow boards don’t work and the reply was “Because people don’t put the tools back!” I wanted to use the 5 Whys technique (asking why five times) to help to get to the root cause of the situation. Because of the amount of resistance I felt was underlying the situation I decided to take another approach. As a good lean student should I performed genchi genbutsu (actual place, actual thing or go see and get facts).

Here is what I first discovered – yes, indeed the tools where not put back on the tool shadow board. Many of the tools were missing. Next, I saw that the tool shadow board was located on the side operator’s desk. At first this may seem to be a good location for the operator, but it also had a garbage can directly in front of it. The tools had lines traced around the outside but were not labeled as to what goes where. As you can see from this picture that 5S has not been applied to this area.

Sorting Tools

As part of “Sort” we went through and Red Tagged items that weren’t needed in the immediate work area. We found many tools in different locations. A couple of team members went through all the tools that were gathered up to see what they needed and did not need, and what was missing. The amazing thing was that the team found over 50 tools lying around the production area, yet they still didn’t have everything they needed!

A couple of the operators got together to decide which tools they actually needed. At this point I asked questions of why their tool shadow board wasn’t working before in the past. To my

"New" location at point-of-use

surprise they decided to create a new tool shadow board, but this time it was smaller, had only the exact tools they needed, they mounted at point-of-use, they used Tool Tracer Vinyl to outline the tools and labeled each of the tools.

Two of the operators that told me that tool shadow boards never worked before told me that this time they think they have a chance. I asked why and the two reasons they gave me were 1) that locating it at point-of-use would make it much easier for the operator to put it back and 2) now they have a standard that all operators can follow.

One more observation of improvement – the team mounted the board inside a clear Plexiglas covering on one of the machines. This seemed to be a great point-of-use location. When they came in the next morning, they noticed the board was taken down. They asked the operator running the line that day why he took it down; he said he couldn’t see the machine running when he was standing by the computer. Instead of the team getting frustrated that he didn;t like the board where it was originally located, they brainstormed other locations where it wouldn’t be in the way and conferred with the operator to make sure the new location was o.k. Now that’s continuous improvement.

So here are ten quick questions you can use as a checklist of things to think about when making a tool shadow board:

1. Does it have the right tools on it?

2. Are there extra tools on the board that are not needed or used (remove these)?

3. Is the board conveniently located so that people can easily get the tool they want and put it back when they are done?

4. Do all the tools have shadows around them?

5. Are all tools labeled?

6. Did you consider using color-coding to identify tools?

7. Did you create a Standard for the tool shadow board?

8. Did you use immediate correction if a tool is not put back when it is supposed to?

9. Do you use daily audits to make sure all tools are put back?

10. Are all people in the area trained on the proper use of the toolshadow board?

As the “Check” part of Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) I’ll follow up in a couple of weeks to see if the tools are still there.