Those working in the automotive, manufacturing, or processing industries are likely familiar with the principles of lean transformation. In today’s competitive, global marketplace, other industries, like business and healthcare, are motivated to learn, and incorporate, lean principles as well. In our current economy where resources always seem to be limited, eliminating waste, and adding value to the product or service for the consumer, are important to every business.
When executives begin to notice their company’s profits are declining, productivity decreasing, and their staff are becoming frenzied or unmotivated, they must initiate a plan for change. Often, decisions about hiring new people, or changing procedures and/or protocol, are done in haste, without careful thought toward the long-term sustainability of those quickly made decisions. These are examples of where Lean thinking can make a difference. Investing the time it takes to learn the philosophy of Lean and then thoughtfully introduce Lean tools and techniques to the workspace, can contribute to sustainable change and a rejuvenation of business initiatives and staff.
Before walls are painted, they must be primed. Think of this metaphor as the steps of 5S, a business organizational method, are introduced, as 5S is the primer to Lean’s paint. In other words, so too, must an organization be primed before being fully able to utilize Lean thinking successfully.
5S is a Japanese organizational method used to maximize both efficiency and profit. The 5S’s are: seiri (sort), seiton (set in order), seiso (shine), seiketsu (standardize), and shitsuke (sustain).
1. Seiri – Sort
Whether cleaning out a garage or an office space, the first step is to sort into categories those things that are needed and those things that are not. In a garage, one may have three areas designated as “keep”, “donate”, and “discard”. For a business, the designations might be “file”, “archive”, or “discard.” Sorting is an important first step because it allows for taking stock of what one has, needs, and does not need.
2. Seiton – Set in Order
Once sorting is finished, and one has all that is necessary for doing a job, with nothing superfluous, it is time to set in order. Whether one has an office, a cubicle, or just a desk, having all items, arranged in an organized way, within arm’s reach, adds to efficiency and productivity.
3. Seiso – Shine
Everyone has worked with that person whose work station always is messy. Their space is overrun with unnecessary paperwork, cluttered with dirty coffee cups, tools that need to be cleaned and so on. Taking proactive measures to keep a workspace neat and organized supports orderly and focused work. Co-workers also appreciate this as it can lend a sense of visual calm to busy days and it also shows pride in what one does.
4. Seiketsu – Standardize
Standardizing policies and procedures adds to efficiency because less time is wasted by the voicing of competing ideas, miscommunication, and time spent idle while waiting for answers. When all workers understand standardized protocol, productivity naturally increases. Often when productivity increases so do profits.
5. Shitsuke – Sustain
At home, cleaning the family garage is fairly easy. Having everyone work to keep it clean is not as easy! The same is true when implementing the 5S’s at work. Keeping staff motivated to sort, set in order, and shine may be challenging, but doing so will lead to concrete changes that eventually affect outcomes.
This is only the beginning but it is a great start to help your organization or company begin the Lean transformation journey.