In my last blog post I discussed the importance of quality Labor Standards and Best Practices. The key to developing best methods for your workforce is a solid foundation using 5-S to organize your workplace and engage your associates in continuous improvement.
5-S is a system to help improve productivity and reduce waste by maintaining an orderly, uncluttered workplace and designating consistent home locations to maintain that order. The 5-S’s are sort, set, shine, standardize and sustain. It may take some time and know-how to implement, but the cost to implement 5-S into your business can easily be recouped in efficiencies gained.
Teams usually begin by sorting through materials, discarding unused clutter and organizing work areas and storage spaces to put the right materials in the right place for the right group of employees. This methodology can eliminate waste by decreasing on-hand supplies. Thoughtful organization allows for needed items to be located in the same space every time. Search times during and between tasks are reduced while associates enjoy a cleaner and more efficient workplace. If you have ever been in a business and notice tape lines around tools or materials even down to staplers, scissors and phones, that’s an indication that 5-S organization work has occurred.
As with most programs, the implementation is almost always met with enthusiasm from the associates. My experience is that this is even greater if your process really involves your associates implementing the process in their workplace. But, even if the program is seen as being pushed by management, the benefits of a clean orderly work environment are quickly welcomed by almost all associates.
But what happens when the dust settles and the challenge becomes how to maintain and evolve your 5-S implementation?
5-S must be an ever-evolving program and changes need to be made when processes and products change. As equipment is added or processes change, the 5-S organization must change to support the new work methods and workplace needs. 5-S is not a set it and forget it plan. It’s a foundation for continuous improvement to keep the workplace current and efficient as changes occur.
How do companies ensure that the labor and expense in implementing this program are not wasted? That’s what the fifth “S,” sustain, is all about. Managers need to keep the process, goals and benefits of 5-S alive so that old habits or casual disorder do not return. Resources and routines should be dedicated to keep your 5-S program alive and well. New associates need to understand and appreciate the program. Systematic daily and weekly routines are a part of the process. Monthly audits with recognition for sustainment are also strongly recommended to stay the course.
Having someone clean and sort only before these inspections is also a waste of time and profits. 5-S cannot become a cosmetic operation just before an audit occurs. It needs to be what it can be: the way we do business day in and day out for greater success. And the real test is not how organized your department is at the start of the day, at the end of the day, or at inspection time, but all throughout the workday when the real work occurs and your customers are being served.
So, why am I blogging about 5-S? It’s because I’m convinced that a company with a committed 5-S program can build an incredible foundation for their labor efforts. 5-S makes your best practices appropriate, accurate and achievable. That makes your standards accurate and achievable for your associates to complete their work as scheduled and in the time that it really should take.
How, in fact, can we put the right people in the right place, at the right times, doing the right things if they cannot get the work done correctly in the time you schedule it? Without 5-S or best practices, can any schedule meet your labor goals? Or is it an obstacle course that no one on your team can effectively complete in the time you give them?
No one builds a good home on an unstable foundation. If you are committed to 5-S you create a solid foundation for your best practices to succeed. Once you do that, a software solution will help you schedule your people in the right place, at the right time, doing the right things to meet your goals and help your business thrive. Without it, your employees probably do what they can but will never fully meet your objectives; they are just executing today’s version of the fire drill.
Your associates are capable of much more than executing today’s version of the fire drill. And your customers want and expect more too. And that’s where your investment in 5-S really pays off.