5S at Google?

In How Google Works, on p. 38, executives Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg wrote:

“When offices get crowded, they tend to get messy too. Let them. When Eric [Schmidt] first arrived at Google in 2001, he asked the head of facilities, George Salah, to clean up the place. George did, and was rewarded with a note the next day from Larry Page, saying, ‘Where did all my stuff go?’ That random collection of stuff was an icon of a busy, stimulated workforce. […] It’s OK to let your office be one hot mess.”

So the company whose mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” has no use for 5S in its offices. The explanation they give is that Google employees are “smart creatives” who do their best work in a messy environment, like Pablo Picasso in his studio. But I can think of another reason: the information that matters to the googlers’ work is the stuff behind their screens, not on their desks. It’s in Google’s data centers, and they work on it with Google’s software.

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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.

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5S: It’s not About What is Done but Who Does It

In yet another discussion of 5S in the TPS Principles and Practice discussion group on LinkedIn, Ryan Ripley asked about the real meaning of the 3rd S, “shine.”  As several contributors pointed out, the 3rd S in 5S is Seiso, which translates to Clean, not Shine. As discussed in an earlier post, translating the 5Ss by five English words that begin with S is a misguided effort that results in systematic mistranslations.

For the first 4Ss, an earlier, imperfect but more accurate translation that I heard in the UK was R.I.C.K., which stood for:

  1. Remove — take all the items that are not routinely needed out of the work space.”
  2. Identify — assign and label locations for all routinely needed items.
  3. Clean — clean the equipment and the floors.
  4. Keep clean — enforce the daily discipline of doing 1 through 3.

I would add Second-Nature for the 5th S, because it means practicing the first four until they are assimilated to the point that enforcement is no longer necessary. This makes the acronym R.I.C.K.S. The translation as Sort, Straighten, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain is not remotely accurate and should be abandoned rather than plumbed for intellectual depth.

What is essential about the 3rd S, “Cleaning” is not what the task is but who does it. A janitor will wipe the oil off the floor and that’s it, the job is done. If the operator does the cleaning, then the hand guides the eyes and draws attention to details like frayed cables, broken dials, or puddles that weren’t there before. It works as an early warning system, and a stepping stone towards autonomous maintenance.

A challenge in organizing for operators to do this is that it is not direct production work. Much of what we do in designing operator jobs is making sure that they are relieved of all tasks that do not directly move the product towards completion. That is why, for example, assemblers should not have to unpack parts but instead should have parts unpacked by others and presented to them within arm’s reach, oriented for ease of assembly.

In the same logic, you might imagine that it makes sense to have others pick up after the operators, putting each tool back where it belongs and cleaning the work space. I remember a production manager in a car plant responding to the idea of setting aside the last 5 minutes of each shift to 5S by saying “that would cost us three cars.”

In reality, of course, I never heard of production performance going down as a result of doing 5S, but it is not a priori obvious.

Avoid Inaccurate Signage!

The following is a sign I saw in a plane yesterday:

Unintended signage in airliner galley

Unintended signage in airliner galley

I thought it was amusing, and told a flight attendant that it was unlikely any passenger would mistake that location for a lavatory. She explained  that this sticker was all they could find to hold up the lid of the waste container. While it may not have conveyed the best image to passengers, functionally, it was harmless, but it reminded me of not-so-harmless cases of wrong, obsolete, or ignored signage on factory floors.

Many such signs are often posted hastily as part of a “5S event.” Three months later, you see shadow boards with tools permanently missing, full pallets in front of signs that reserve the space for empties, and junk encroaching on marked transportation aisles. While each instance is a minor issue, collectively, even a small number is sufficient to destroy the credibility of the signage plantwide.

Signage on factory floors must be posted with excruciating care for accuracy and clarity, and it must then be enforced rigorously and consistently. Otherwise, it is a waste of effort.

Predicting the benefits of “Lean Actions”

In the TPS + 1 ENGINEERING group on LinkedIn, Hela Hassine asked  “How can we predict and quantify the profit of lean actions before implementing them?”

I see three types of what Hela Hassine call “actions”:

  1. For some, you can do a complete discounted cash flow analysis before implementing. Cellularizing a job-shop falls into this category.
  2. For others, you cannot calculate the benefits ahead of time, but you can measure them afterwards. When you improve quality, first you can’t tell ahead of time by how much it will actually improve, and second, you can’t tell how much good this improvement will do to your business. After you have improved quality, you know by how much, and you can also measure the market impact of the improved quality, which is its dominant benefit. There is no way you can justify quality improvement ahead of time through cost-of-quality analysis.
  3. For the rest, the benefits are too diffuse to be measurable. 5S falls is in this category.

This has obvious consequences on implementation sequencing, that are often overlooked. Projects that lend themselves to a-priori justification are easiest to sell to management, and success in such projects gives you the credibility you need to undertake others with less tangible benefits. In other words, you are better off starting with cells than with 5S.

Flow improvements called “5S” at Avanzar | Jeffrey Liker

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“Recently I revisited Avanzar, Toyota’s interior and seating supplier for their San Antonio, Texas truck plant.  Most major suppliers are on-site delivering directly to the factory which in the case of seat assembly is right across a wall. Avanzar’s CEO, Heriberto (Berto) Guerra, was very excited about their Japanese advisor, formerly of Toyota, and all he had been teaching them about real kanban.  I had visited a year earlier and Mr. Guerra was very excited about their Japanese advisor, formerly of Toyota, who was teaching them kanban. A year before that, he said they were making progress in a few model areas and now there was kanban everywhere. Mr. Guerra also raved about the way their advisor was teaching them 5S, which again I found confusing.”

Michel Baudin‘s insight:

A well-documented case of Lean implementation at a just-in-sequence supplier ot seats to Toyota’s plant in San Antonio, TX. An oddity of this case  is that they lump under the “5S” label all sorts of changes that are well beyond it, such as redesigning part presentation at assembly to make frequently used items easily accessible, or kitting parts.

Of course, as long as it works for them, they can call it whatever they want. For communication with the rest of us, however, as Jeffrey found, it is confusing.

See on www.manufacturingpulse.com

Signs and sustainability | Manufacturing Digital, 2/2013

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Effective visual communications help reduce energy consumption, increase productivity and further the sustainable manufacturing goals of companies around the world, Jack Rubinger explains how…




Michel Baudin‘s insight:

No, it’s not a novel by Jane Austen but an article in a British ezine on Manufacturing.

The article’s author works for a signage company but, this being said, his points on the value of clear, accurate, and regularly updated signage are well taken.

See on www.manufacturingdigital.com

Lean Manufacturing at Thomson Reuters Eagan Manufacturing, Distribution & Engineering Plant

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Michel Baudin‘s insight:

Employees talk about “Lean Manufacturing,” and what it means to them. They talk about continuous improvement, and participating in events, but what do they have to show in terms of changes made to operations? What they discuss most is 5S, and second to that is standard work. The say nothing of setup time reductions, improvements in flow, pull systems, mistake-proofing, or equipment modifications.

No numbers are given about achievements. The customers find the plant appealing, which is good marketing, They say they have reduced costs and improved quality, but they don’t say how much for either. The only number quoted is that an employee was able to cut his lawn mowing time at home from 3 hours to 2 by better planning his mowing route, using what he had learned at work.

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1. After viewing the video, please tell me what you think

2. And elaborate in further comments below

RICKS versus 5S

In the TPS Principles and Practices discussion group on LinkedIn, Frederick Stimson Harriman started a thread about why it is silly to translate 5S into English.

I think the main problem with the commonly used translation of 5S is that it is wrong and misleading. I don’t think it is silly to translate if you can get the meaning right. What is truly silly and hopeless is trying to find 5 English words with the right meaning and starting with “S.”

Back when 5S was only 4S, I heard the following in the UK: “Remove, Identify, Clean, and Keep clean” or R.I.C.K., and I thought it was both reasonably accurate and mnemonic.

For the fifth “S,” Shitsuke, I see it as the state you achieve when you have done the first four S’s long enough for the activities to become second-nature. If telling your kid every day to brush his teeth is Seiketsu, what you have accomplished when he does it on his own without prompting is Shitsuke. So I would translate Shitsuke by “Second-nature,” which happens to start with S.

With that, we could have R.I.C.K.S. as an improved translation. What do you think?

5S in Sri Lanka: Passing fad or firm philosophy? | The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

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Over the past few years, Sri Lanka has seen a tremendous increase in the application of the Japanese workplace organization method, the 5S system, particularly

Michel Baudin‘s insight:

A well-written, warts-and-all account of a development I was not aware of. The last paragraph says: “…those companies which have succeeded in embracing it as a philosophy have benefited in numerous ways, financially and non-financially…” And this is as specific as it gets.

See on www.sundaytimes.lk