Many companies are already implementing Lean to great success, so it begs the question why aren’t you.  Lean isn’t just for manufacturing businesses, the teachings and concepts can be applied to anyone in any industry. The reason Lean is regularly thought about in a manufacturing context is its history, growth and implementation with Toyota. Though the name Lean can be associated with Toyota the concepts of lean can identified back to Benjamin Franklin.  Franklin’s ‘The Way to Wealth’ contains many key themes in today’s Lean methodology. A strong believer of Franklin’s work was Henry Ford. Everybody knows about the Model T and the development of the moving assembly line but something Henry Ford possessed was an eagle eye for waste. He would spot waste were other wouldn’t and was focused on waste limitation, and not only material waste…

Time waste differs from material waste in that there can be no salvage. The easiest of all wastes, and the hardest to correct, is this waste of time, because wasted time does not litter the floor like wasted material.

In order to get you on the road to becoming lean we will start by laying some foundations in the form of 5s. 5s originated in the Japanese language which has subsequently been translated to: Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize and Sustain. We will introduce you to each of the S’s and how they can be implemented.

Sort is the segregation of the necessary and unnecessary:

  • Identify what is an unnecessary item and dispose of them properly (This could be unused tools in a workspace which can be stored in a designated area, the removal of waste or any number of examples)
  • Evaluate the necessary items with the regards to cost, condition etc.

Set in Order is the organisation of the necessary:

  • Arrange all necessary items so they can be easily selected with close proximity and work flow in mind.

Shine is the cleaning of your workplace/workspace:

  • Clean your workplace completely using the time to also inspect equipment
  • Keep your workplace safe, clean and pleasing to work in.

Standardize is the implementation of a standard:

  • Identify the right place for each piece of equipment
  • Maintain a high standard across the entire workplace.

Sustain is the doing without asking:

  • Train and discipline yourself and other to maintain the standard
  • Perform regular audits.

Out of all of these, sustain is the regular failing for many companies implementing 5s, not due to it being hard but because they aren’t implementing the right audits, training and discipline. Sustain shouldn’t mean you need your floor manager checking every work station at the end of every shift… far from that. Sustaining can be as simple as a visual prompt for the employees in the form of a poster highlighting what is required of a clean and organised work environment. Better yet include a before and after image.

This is a simple, intuitive guide to 5s. A great way to get on the road to becoming Lean is implementing 5s as a Pilot Project. Run it for 2-3months then evaluate, review and develop it to your needs.

Robert Bowling

Author: Robert Bowling