Sunday, March 31, 2013

How to Load Level the Fine Art of 5S

One of the prime benefits of doing this lean thing is eliminating chaos in your life. At my company, as we grew very rapidly, chaos was sometimes the order of the day. Being a fairly seasonal business, this was particularly evident when all of our customers seemed to want everything at once. And, coincidentally, I think they plotted to purposely call in and order stuff we didn't have If they wanted 5, we had 3. if they wanted 3, we had 20. If they wanted blue, we happened to have red. As we began to learn to see waste in our processes and steadily eliminate it, the load was leveled, supermarkets were developed, and replenishment was happening based on consumption and we were marching toward flow. Three years into our little journey, I noticed very little chaos even when demand was high.

Because you are kind enough to read my posts, I think you see that I am a firm believer in applying the concept of heijunka to a "lean strategy" itself. A company of 70 people did over 350 A3s in one year. Small, steady, reversible, experiments. Every one of them had a closing to teach others what was learned. It occurred to me in 2009 to apply this same thinking to standardizing every area of our facility. We all know that 5S is less about making things orderly and pretty and all about standardization-people coming to agreement-"our way" vs. "my way". I believe the intent of 5S is not a cleaned up area, but a culture change. To do this, how do you get everyone to think about standardization for 15-20 minutes a day, for 240 work days every year?  If there were always 15-25 active projects on the A3 project board company wide, there were always 5 or 6 at all times that used 5S to close the gap between current condition and target condition. Standardization is all about gaining consensus, because like root cause analysis, it isn't a solo sport. An A3 leader would select a 3-5 person team, and come to agreement on the current condition using pictures or video, and do root cause analysis to understand why there was a lack of standardization in an area. Then, come to agreement on a target condition. What do WE want an area to look like? The implementation plan (to close the gap) might include 5S, and the team would focus on sort for 15 minutes per day until it was done (red tag, when in doubt throw it out). Then move to set, shine, etc. At the closing, the team leader would be standing with his team in the "after" and would show the pictures or video on a big screen of the "before".    

The primary objective for leaders should be to developing a new kata or routine for people. A kata where people are used to stopping what they are doing for 15 minutes every day to get better. Lead an A3, or be on an A3. Before developing this new routine, 5S was all about feverishly getting the plant ready for a visitor. After this thinking, a visitor could show up any time without warning, and everyone could be proud of how the place looked.  Plus, it was a better place to live. We often spend more time there than home! 

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