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Using 5S to Achieve Performance Goals

As a Manager of a $20M business unit acquired by a Fortune 500, I was directed to achieve certain operational performance metrics but without corporate support other than the CEO showing a PowerPoint to my boss and a tour of a sister facility. My boss communicated those annual goals to me but offered little advice on how to get there other than, “make material move”. He knew we needed to get rid of un-needed stuff, eliminate looking for tools, shorten the length of the production line, and establish the work content at each workstation to below takt. I had a willing team that performed well together. I was given a deadline of one year to make changes that would yield a reduction in both direct labor hours and inventory. Where do I start?

I asked my team for ideas and they were willing to “just do it”. Upon trying, too much time was being used causing disruption to current production orders and confusion as to what to do, how to do it and why. This went on for weeks as I searched for a template for success. We lacked a planned systematic approach to enable a fast, standardized change at all 16 workstations in the assembly line. We were lost and the months ticked by. I then thought to ask my counterpart, another Business Unit Manager in our company, who had already gone through a Lean transformation. He had a significant Lean background having worked for a Japanese company that was big on Lean. He suggested I try the Five S’s. I went to my team led by my Production & Inventory Control Manager and her assistant. They had already completed a couple of workstations with much effort but lacked a plan, or systematic approach, for the balance. We discussed the 5S’s and away they went. About 2 hours before the end of shift they would go to a workstation and remove everything there; raw material, in-process material, scrap, trash, tools, fasteners and any work instructions or notes. Sort (The first of the 5 S’s) was complete. Next they would start putting things back after consulting with the assembler. Excess space between workstations was eliminated, labels were applied to shelves, lines were put on the floor for in-process, raw material was put at point of use, and needed tools were put in the drawer. Set-in Order (the 2nd of the 5 S’s) had happened. Concurrently with the first 2 S’s, the team cleaned the area including shelves, floor and workbench. They had achieved Shine (the 3rd of the 5S’s). While the team was engaged with Kaizen on the floor, the Manufacturing Engineer, having already gathered his work content and time information, posted an improved draft of the Standard Operation Procedure, or SOP. This included a job breakdown including pictures. Now we were working from a Standardized  (the 4th of the 5S’s) process.

“5s Graphic

Our 16 station assembly line was taking shape! Each day they moved to another workstation minimizing disruption. The subsequent day the P & IC and ME would finalize the previous day’s work and observe the process, making adjustments where necessary, and with real-time input from the assembler. Once per week the P & IC and her assistant would perform an audit of each workstation to the new standards. This became a permanent weekly function allowing them to Sustain (the last of the 5S’s).

“Growth Graphic

Though successful in the end, much pain and anxiety could have been eliminated with a simple training for everyone. A Four Hour 5S class with simulation would have enabled my team to see first what they needed to do and understood why. They would have been able to gather all necessary supplies prior to starting. A Red Tag Area could have been established to enable quick movement of un-needed stuff out of the production area. A spaghetti diagram would have allowed an opportunity for learning as well as an optimum layout. We could have achieved the goal with less effort, cost and disruption if we had known to educate our team on 5S. Our next giant step was to implement Kanban. For that we had a workbook and attended training. At the end of the year we had shortened the line by 25%, reduced inventory 50% and achieved linearity by building to takt using standard work.

AKA can facilitate your company through the 5S process and work with your team to bring direction and purpose to your manufacturing activities. Let Advantage Kentucky Alliance’s Lean experts help your team attain great success.   As the MEP for the state of Kentucky, we do receive funding from the government which allows us to buy down the costs of any of the services that we provide.  To find out more about how AKA can help you with Lean and Continuous Improvement,  business growth, leadership development, CyberSecurity, Quality Management Systems - ISO, or Safety, call our Marketing Specialist, Kurt Felten, directly at (270) 745-3370, and begin the conversation today.

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