Volume 1 / Issue 11 / August 15, 2016
“We are what we repeatedly do.” Aristotle
What does it tell you when you walk into a
supplier’s workplace that’s neither
clean nor organized?
Workplace Organization (Alias 5-S)
Time to get serious
To today’s discriminating customers, it shouts to them that they will pay more for the products and services they buy and they even know that all waste costs are contained in the price they will pay. Yes, every workplace is different, but most still struggle with Workplace Organization (WO) – or 5S – as it is called in 2016. This fall, keep an eye on your supplier’s practices as you keep in mind that leading companies have no hesitation to ask for a ‘walk-through’ to appreciate the alignment between them and their suppliers.
What is still not well understood is that 5S is just the beginning of the journey to Lean. It will provide you with foundation for Standard Work which provides the foundation for Continuous Improvement which provides the foundation to launch Visual Factory disciplines. So, let’s begin at the beginning with a great example.
Winnipeg’s New Flyer bus company showed some 600 North American lean practitioners attending the 2015 CME/AME Lean Conference how they made use of Workplace Organization practices found in a professional dentist’s office. Why? Because for New Flyer it was a perception changer. Employees and attendees began thinking and talking about the motion, layout, tool placement, scheduling, and material wastes associated with poor Workplace Organization.
It’s no secret that if we consider our work processes professionally, it will change how we do what we do. Poor Workplace Organization can undermine quality and add wastes that customers are becoming smart enough to refuse to pay for.
But before you hit delete…
Changes are underway. Top suppliers are firing customers with disorganized WO and processes. Some even craftily ease customers to other suppliers (often competitors). As competition increases through improvement and international trade this kind of craftiness will increase. But be careful - WO improvement can stall if employees just see it as housekeeping or, worse, just the making of a ‘pretty plant.’
Such fallacies need to be ruthlessly stamped out especially by Lean organizations aspiring to be leaders! Think about the time lost in your organization looking for things, redoing things, ignoring waste, not considering workflow ,not respecting process owners as the professionals they are and not equipping them with what is needed to improve their processes.
Building a disciplined WO strategy requires respect and for the full management and leadership team to constantly ask, “What can we do to raise the self-esteem of our practitioners? Are we committed to equipping and enabling each to become the professional they are capable of being? Do we continuously listen to them to ensure that all the routines and thinking needed are in place and supported?”
Many 5S implementations have begun with a burst of energy and training but as time goes by the routines (and management’s acknowledgement of its importance) begin to slip and the discipline melts.
The gathering clouds
People are getting distracted by the ‘next big thing’ and others feel that 5S is old. “ We’ve done all that” is an easy attitude to adopt when management no longer follows up. It seems everyone loses sight of the fact that WO is the foundation for Lean improvements to come. We are in a dangerous and uncertain place right now. It’s easy to back off when we’re unsure of where the US (our biggest customer) is headed; what the impact of the Brexit fallout will be and, now, the uncertain status of the partially delayed CETA trade deal. .
In fact, while folks in your organization are dealing with these uncertainties now is the ideal time to redouble the efforts and to redefine and drive waste from your WO. It’s the right time to build a better Workplace Organization and time to think again about what winning in your world will require - no matter what the future holds.
5S is just the first step
Henry Ford knew how the success of the first Springfield rifles depended on the operation of interchangeable parts when he declared: “We just can’t afford dirt – it’s too expensive!” For the assembly of cars, cleanliness was an absolute necessity. His CANDO Workplace Organization became 5S and it made his success possible.
What recent improvements have your company made in the organization of your workplace?
Tragically, too many North America companies stop their Lean journey at 5-S when it is truly only the beginning! A dentist or a doctor with her/his tools in disarray puts you, their customer, at risk. Especially if he/she cannot find the right clamp to stop a blood flow! . Manufacturers who must out-compete the global competition require a world class organization of their workplace as a fundamental enabler.