Sustain Your 5S Program with These Management Musts


Reduce stress by using these seven tips to sustain your 5S program in your workplace.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have an easy button, especially when it comes to tackling 5S?

You don’t have time to waste learning all the technical jargon when you have unique challenges to overcome. With demanding responsibilities, getting a quick answer is exactly what you need.

The truth is, even if you had an easy button in the management world, you’d still need an effective strategy, proper training, buy-in from your organization and leadership, and people to hold accountable. The list of responsibilities may seem overwhelming. But you already know the end result because you’ve been there before. You’ve watched a plan grow into something of value because you’re involved in planning and execution.

If you can set the tone or journey and influence a change of behavior in your workplace, you can achieve success. Sustaining anything takes time and with the right attitude, you can overcome challenges and motivate change. In reality, management isn’t anything new to you-you’ve got this!

If you need help with your 5S efforts, here are 7 tips to help you with what is commonly regarded to as the most difficult part of 5S – sustainment.

1)    Walkout to the production floor. 

When was the last time you walked out to the plant or production floor (also called a Gemba walk)? If you try to avoid that area like the plague, it’s time to get out there and see what is going on with your own set of eyes. But don’t walk out to a particular area without a plan.

The goal is to examine the current state of a particular process by observing it in action at the place where it occurs. Please note this is different from just walking around the production floor. By visiting the place where work is done, management can gain valuable insight into the flow of assessment through the organization and find opportunities for improvement.

You don’t necessarily need a magnifying glass to observe the area. To sustain your 5S program, pausing to examine a particular process will do just fine. But don’t forget to ask in-depth questions about what you’re observing such as:

  • Who is involved in the process?
  • What resources are used?
  • How do you know what to do?
  • When does the task take place?
  • What are the desired outcomes?

With a thoughtful approach, you can improve communication, collaboration, and processes by walking out to the production floor and examining where improvements can be made.

2)    Managers need to go through 5S training.

Although this step seems very obvious, it’s an important part of growth. Think about any new hires you’ve had recently – they all went through new hire training so they could perform their job accurately and safely, right?  You invest in their training because you want them to succeed, which in turn will benefit your business objectives. The same goes for being trained on and providing 5S training to your workers. You need to pave the way to success with the training.

To sustain your 5S program, you need more than just reading a book, watching a video, and having a meeting. The easiest way to accomplish this step is to create a 5S team and ask your employees to be part of it. Talk to the specialists and schedule a 5S assessment service appointment to assist you. Get equipped with the training you and your 5S team need to sustain all things lean in the workplace.

3)    Be a dedicated player on the 5S Team. 

One of the easiest ways to kill a 5S initiative is to send your team the wrong message by showing a lack of commitment to the entire process. If you’re not 100% dedicated to 5S sustainment, then how can you expect your employees to be committed to lean principles in the workplace?  Set the stage for involvement and develop a code of conduct – such as no cell phones or laptops during meetings and motivating your team to focus on the task at hand. A successful meeting requires engagement, discussion, and the undivided attention of others.

Talk about better manufacturing processes and overview the information you learned during the 5S training sessions so the team can all get on the same page. But don’t forget to actively participate in discussions so your team knows you are committed to sustaining 5S.

4)    Support 5S. 

The reason you’re here is that you need help improving efficiency, reducing wasted space, improving maintenance, and eliminating anything that doesn’t add value to your customer (actually lean initiatives at the end of the day are supposed to remove any wasteful steps that don’t add value for the customer) right? If you already know 5S will help you with reducing problems in the workplace, why wouldn’t you give 5S time to sustain?

5S is not a one and done process. Here’s a scenario most of us can relate to – the dreaded garage. When was the last time you cleaned out your garage? Remember the feeling of accomplishment that overwhelmed you with excitement. You could finally park both cars in the garage and still have enough room for your garbage cans, tool shelves, and storage containers. Then the holidays happened and you opened the containers to find your Christmas decorations, moved the cars out of the garage to make room for extra holiday stuff, and the stuff never stopped piling up. Now Springtime is here and you have to tackle the garage again.

The only way to give 5S the time it needs is to schedule it or even better, make it part of your regular standardized work. Management must not waiver from this. Yes, you’ll need diligence when times get crazy but you’ll be glad you did. More importantly, your staff will see that regardless of how hectic things get in the workplace, 5S is important to management thus setting the foundation for sustainability.

Now how about tackling the dreaded garage?

5)    Focus on the people and their 5S efforts. 

As a manager, your challenge is to create a successful environment for growth. Why not break through whatever is hindering growth by rewarding the people involved in making a difference? The best practice for motivating people is to sincerely praise them for their efforts. Acknowledge accomplishments and recognize their efforts.

One example could be to set up an employee reward program to recognize performance and positive behavior. When you see someone follow the 5S standards such as putting something back in the correct place, cleaning up their space, or making processes more efficient, take a moment to let them know you noticed and appreciated their efforts. You could even bring up their success during your regular 5S meeting. A sincere thank you in front of fellow workers will go a long way and motivate the behavior you’re looking for to help sustain your 5S efforts.

 6)    Hold people accountable. 

Behind every success in business and life, you’ll always find someone that is accountable to their goals. Any industry leader knows that holding people accountable is the best way to meet a deadline, surpass quota, and close a sale. Accountability is also the secret ingredient to successfully sustaining 5S. In every department – from the front door to the back dock – the entire company needs awareness of your 5S goals and be held accountable to your company can achieve them. 

What does it look like to hold someone accountable? Here’s a quick scenario. You’re the warehouse supervisor. You repeatedly see someone place a pallet jack two feet away from the taped out, pre-determined, and labeled location. If you don’t say something to this worker, they’ll continue to step all over your 5S efforts. Do the right thing and talk to them about it. That way, they’re reminded to follow the standards – and hold them accountable for their actions.

7)    Do not do 5S to them. 

One of the biggest mistakes any manager can make is to force 5S onto its workforce by doing it to them – not with them. For 5S or any improvement initiative to stick, the team needs to be part of the change.

For example, I was asked to tour a facility nearby that wanted some help to sustain their 5S process. During the tour, we came upon a workbench with an attractive tool shadow board albeit many tools were missing.

With the GM of the plant standing beside me, I approached the gentlemen working at the bench and said, “Hi there, I’m David Visco from The 5S Store and I couldn’t help by notice your tool shadow board. How is it working for you?”

He said, “Yeah,  I $@#!% hate this thing. I was gone on vacation. When I came back to the bench I’ve been at for 25 years looked like this. They never even asked me. You’ll notice a lot of tools are missing. Well, that’s because they put shadows on there I don’t need. And, didn’t add the tools and shadows I did need.”

I’ll never forget that moment. I made a point to the GM about what they did and explained that’s why they don’t sustain 5S.

You can’t sustain your 5S program without consulting your people.

People, especially ones that have worked at the same station for 25 years consider that part of who they are. Coming into their work area and changing the environment, without their input, is simply a bad decision.

In conclusion, sustaining 5S requires buy-in from your workforce. The best way to gain their commitment is to motivate them to do their best. Then, provide them with the tools they need to succeed. Sustain your 5S program for years to come.


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