Questions from Croatia about 5S

Following is a list of questions by Stjepan Sinko, from Croatia, about 5S implementation, with my answers:

  1. Are there any risks associated with the implementation of the 5S program?

    Yes. A clumsy, poorly timed 5S implementation can backfire, hurt management’s credibility with the work force, and make it more difficult to try again later.

  2. What should be the scope – all operations at the same time (every single workplace, including the management work and offices)?

    5S is “total” in the Japanese sense, meaning that everybody must be involved, from the CEO to the janitor. You have to train everybody from the top down, and start implementation concurrently everywhere. It doesn’t have to be the same day, but you can’t wait until you see results in Section A before you start in Section B.

  3. How to asses the quality of 5S project implementation?

    5S is activity-driven, meaning that success is measured of what practices are implemented, not what good they do. The literature will give you a five-level scale for the various components of 5S.

  4. In what time-frame should the first three or four S’s be completed?

    Prepare for months, but execute in weeks. How many depends on the size and readiness of the organization.

  5. Should the organization expect financial benefits (is there a way to present a cost-benefit analysis of the 5S program)?

    No. As 5S sprinkles improvement throughout the organization, its effect is difficult to quantify, especially before you implement it. Sometimes, you can quantify benefits after the fact, for example in terms of reductions in handling damage. As a rule, however, 5S implementation is a leap of faith.

  6. Who should be in charge of the project and who should actually implement the program?

    It is a top management initiative, implemented by line management, with facilitation as needed by the Lean office or external consultants. 5S is a set of practices that must be embedded in everybody’s daily routines, which cannot be done by outsiders.

For further details, see earlier posts about 5S, with the latest first:

9 comments on “Questions from Croatia about 5S

  1. In one of your interviews, you have mentioned John Seddon’s recommendation to ask 3 questions when introducing a new tool:
    (1) who invented it,
    (2) to solve what problem, and
    (3) whether you have that problem.

    To the best of my knowledge, 5S approach was codified by Hiroyuki Hirano and it probably is a Japanese take on Ford’s CANDO. But I’m not certain what problems does it solve. I assume it might be the following and would like to know what you think:

    – building discipline and attention to detail (rule following culture and aversion to risk),
    – workplace wellbeing (it migh even be argued that viewing the mind, the body and the environment separately is ineffective or at least less efficient approach to workplace design),
    – removing obstacles to flow (as in a famous qoute by Shoichiro Toyoda: „Muda is anything other than the minimum amount of equipment, materials, parts, space, and worker’s time, which are absolutely essential to add value to the product.“).

    • I am not sure who invented 5S. The books about TPS form the late 1970s and the 1980s — like Ohno’s or Monden’s, or the JMA’s — contain no mention of it, and neither does Mikiharu Aoki’s 2009 book on TPS implementation. This is evidence, perhaps, that 5S has been oversold as a component of Lean.

      The oldest reference I have for it is Tomoo Sugiyama’s The 5S Approach to Improvement, originally published in Japan in 1992 as “Kaizen shashin jireishu: 5S kaizen no susume kata,” (5S改善のすすめ方―改善写真事例集). Sugimyama’s focus is on fixed-position photography, which makes you record the exact position and angle from which you shoot pictures, so that the change between “before” and “after” is clear.

      After seeing many before-and-after pictures that were unclear as a result of not having been shot from the same position and angle, I concluded that fixed-position photography on the shop floor is indeed an excellent idea, although it is of course not all there is to 5S.

      In his introduction, Sugiyama traces 5S to the 1930s at Nippon Gakki — now Yamaha. Unlike similar approaches pursued in the US, 5S is not strictly utilitarian. Intel, for example, has a “Mr. Clean” approach that requires engineers to tidy up and lock their desks before leaving every day, but it has the direct purpose of protecting intellectual property. There is no such clarity with 5S, and its value is often described in philosophical terms that make it difficult for operational managers to get on board with it.

      You can look at it from different angles. I consider 5S to be part of the factory’s information system. Visibility makes instructions easier to execute, accurate signage maintains its credibility, and cleanliness allows you to rule out many possible causes of problems.

      Without 5S, you have trouble locating the resources needed to do the work the plan says you should. If you see pallet loads of materials right under signs prohibiting storage, you quickly lose faith in all the signs. If you have puddles of oil on the floors, frayed cables and broken indicator lights on machines, these are all possible causes that you have to investigate when it starts producing defectives .

      In theory, a dedicated housekeeping department could take care of these issues, but 5S places responsibility for them on the shoulders of those who do the work, when often think the tasks involved to be beneath them. It makes sense because, if somebody else tidies up my kitchen, I can’t find the salt when I need it.

      5S, however, does not create flow. You have to design your operations for flow, and then 5S can help sustain it.

  2. So, it’s a building block in a visual management system? Would you agree that 5S enhances worplace discipline?

    Here are the reference I have:

    Gapp, Fisher & Kobayashi in their “Implementing 5S within a Japanese context” (2008 article) state that the 5S was formalized by Takashi Osada in the early 1980s (the book is Osada, T. (1989), 5S – Tezukuri no manajiment shuho¯ (5S – Handmade Management Method), JIPM, Tokyo).

    Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME) in their “Accelerating the Journey” newsletter trace it to CANDO:

    “In the mid 1920s — long before the Toyota Production System — Ford was installing his CANDO easy-to-remember discipline for workplace organization, complete with visual tools. In 1931 there was no 5S, but there was a 3S which stood for eliminating the wastes caused by smoke, soot, and smudge. Though CANDO was in place from that time, it became neglected and was eventually lost at Ford. 5S as we know it, did not come along until the 1950s.The Japanese first saw its predecessor, CANDO, in action in the 1920s and got to work on it after the 1950s as they clawed their way out of bankruptcy.”

    I couldn’t find a reference to CANDO in Henry Ford’s writings, but these two paragraphs from “My Life and Work” convey the practice:

    “Then we began our house-cleaning. During the war we had gone into many kinds of war work and had thus been forced to depart from our principle of a single product. This had caused many new departments to be added. The office force had expanded and much of the wastefulness of scattered production had crept in. War work is rush work and is wasteful work. We began throwing out everything that did not contribute to the production of cars.

    Then we were ready for full production. And gradually into full production we went—on a profitable basis. The house-cleaning swept out the waste that had both made the prices high and absorbed the profit. We sold off the useless stuff. Before we had employed fifteen men per car per day. Afterward we employed nine per car per day. This did not mean that six out of fifteen men lost their jobs. They only ceased being unproductive. We made that cut by applying the rule that everything and everybody must produce or get out.”

    • There are many sides to this. One of the effects of 5S is sharing information that was previously private to each production operator. For example, if you use a shadow board for hand tools, it means that everybody who does the same job uses these tools instead of his or her personal tools in a private toolbox, and anybody newly assigned to the job can immediately find all the needed tools.

      The most positive consequence of this is in quality, which you can’t assure unless the same job is done the same way every time, and it cannot be unless the same tools are used every time, regardless of who wields them.

      Operators, however, do not always welcome this sharing. In plants that do not rotate them between operations, one may only know how to operate one machine, and is not keen to make it easy for anyone else to learn.

      Thanks for the references. There is a campaign underway in the US to attribute Lean to Henry Ford, which is bizarre, given that the term “mass production” was coined specifically to describe Ford’s system. The writings signed by Henry Ford particularly need to be taken with a grain of salt, as ghostwritten by journalist Samuel Crowther.

      The two paragraphs you quote describe one-time changes made to convert from production in war time to peace. They have nothing to do with a daily practice like 5S.

  3. Which TPS visual presentation (house of lean) do you find the most accurate?
    Some of them list 5S, some don’t.
    Recently, I stumbled upon Imai’s (Kaizen Institute) implementation roadmap,
    which defines 5S as the first step:

    Obviously, I’m trying to make a mental picture, to position 5S in the lean house.

    Also, how would you define the connection between 3M’s (Muda, Muri, Mura) and five S’s?

    • All I can tell you is that, in my experience, with a few exceptions, starting with 5S in a factory is a costly mistake.

      Taking a step back, however, I wonder what your interest in 5S is. I understand you work for a bank. What are you trying to do?

  4. I’m trying to figure out if and how lean might be implemented in financial services (John Seddon thinks it can’t be, at least not as a direct or tool transplant). It seems that many consultants take the “first we implement the 5S” approach, so the first thing I’m looking into is 5S.

    For instance, 5S was the first step in Sberbank’s lean implementation project (if I’m not mistaken):

  5. Hey Stjepan,
    I’m far from an expert, and I have no sources to quote, but I can tell you my experiences to give another point of view.

    I have used 5S in a financial services environment in two ways: the better of which was in the “soft” environment, of computers. This is because the waste of Motion applies to this area too – searching too long through folders with little results, or moving back and foward through screens in a program to get the job done for a customer. Michel has spoken about motion studies in physical environments on this blog – I believe they are important in soft environments and customer experiences / user interfaces too.

    An example recently: We had a team drive filled with process documents – dozens of folders that were also dozens of folders deep. It started with creating an “Archive” folder. Then, instead of red tagging, we simply looked at the date an item was last modified or looked at, and moved the ones not used into an archive folder. This way, they were still there if people missed them. It was a simple way to save time and frustration, and save many people small amounts of time.

    The other way I’ve used it in Financial Services was in physical environments such as common printer areas, or stationary cupboards, but these didn’t gel with me as much – I personally perfer things that directly improve team-mates’ work or customer experience.

    • Hi David,

      I couldn’t agree with you more. I think that the central point in providing services at financial institutions is managing information / processing documents / cases.
      Since the idea of 5S is to focus on the details of the work environment in order to make the operations run smoothly (and safely), and since the workplace is actually a desk with a computer, it makes perfect sense to concentrate ones 5S efforts in that area.

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