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Example: 5S and Reducing Waste

www.kansascity.com | 09/10/2007 | To survive and thrive in these days of globalization, manufacturing companies must carve away the fat.

Here's a nice news story that describes 5S and workplace organization as more than just a neatness or cleanliness exercise. 5S is about preventing or reducing waste and it's about making problems readily visible and apparent to employees and managers.

Seasoning and sauce maker Williams Foods Inc. has embraced “lean manufacturing” with a vengeance.

You can see it in the trash.

In its Lenexa facility, cans marked “Trash” are placed on a painted decal on the floor marked “Trash.”

At this point, you might think “uh oh, this might actually be L.A.M.E. instead of lean” but it doesn't seem to be just an exercise in putting tape around everything.

The article continues:

“Before, it was a mess,” said Cannon, an assistant supervisor on the day shift. “We couldn't locate anything, and the company had to spend more money ordering equipment because nobody could find it.”

The difference is like night and day, according to Cannon.

“Now, we've organized everything, and everybody knows where to find what's needed,” he said. “It's cleaner, neater and there's a lot more space to work with. It makes our job a lot easier and much less frustrating.”

That sounds great — they actually have benefits (waste reduction) and 5S is making work easier and more pleasant for the employees.

The risk with 5S is that it, a tool, is viewed as the entirety of “lean.” If you're “doing 5S” instead of solving problems, improving performance to your customers, or making work easier for your employees, people might rightfully look and ask why you're doing that, putting tape around everything. Remember that 5S is really a more involved process of workplace organization, including the idea that you locate the most frequently used supplies and tools in convenient and easy to reach locations. You don't just put tape around everything where it's located currently.

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Mark Graban's passion is creating a better, safer, more cost effective healthcare system for patients and better workplaces for all. Mark is a consultant, author, and speaker in the "Lean healthcare" methodology. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. His most recent project is an book titled Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also the VP of Improvement & Innovation Services for the technology company KaiNexus.

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