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: