Extreme 5S: Workplace organization on steroids

Even before Warren Lake’s letter to the editor appeared in January’s issue of CabinetMakerFDM, I had decided that it was time to reintroduce lean thinking and the Lean Business Philosophy to our readers.

Mr. Lake referred to the number of shops in the Toronto area that closed in the previous year because they couldn’t weather the current economic conditions or growing competition from the flattening global marketplace. He also noted:

“I went to some of the auctions; most had big CNC machinery. It’s sad to see the shops go down. I stood in huge buildings with tons of huge machinery and 50 years or more history and felt an overwhelming sadness of respect for what was built and put together, what it was to run those businesses for all those years.”


A new approach 

Unfortunately, his observation is on target for many companies in our industry, but it doesn’t have to be that way. If you have followed my column and past articles you know that I believe we can regain our industry leadership role, and it doesn’t take rocket science or the latest and greatest technology to get there. It does, however, require a new approach.

You may be aware of the quote, “If you continue to do what you have always done, you will continue to get what you have always gotten.” If you’re satisfied with the results you are currently getting this series of articles will be of no interest. If you are tired of the status quo and want to become a dynamic force in the industry, this series can help you get started, and without major capital investment.

Readers familiar with the lean tool, Workplace Organization or 5S, will recognize the process steps I will be focusing on as the series unfolds. The series is titled, Extreme 5S – Workplace Organization on Steroids, because I want to demonstrate how you can use the 5S approach to drive improvements in all areas of your business, not just in the individual work place.


Getting started 

Those not familiar with 5S will want to get some resources for the company or personal library so you can follow along. There are many great books available, including my own, “Story of a Lean Journey,” but the easiest, most user-friendly and helpful guide I have found is “The 5S Pocket Guide,” by Jim Peterson and Roland Smith, Ph.D. The Pocket Guide is available through Productivity Press.

Every journey, which is how you should view the transformation to the Lean Business Philosophy, begins with the first step. The first step in applying Extreme 5S thinking in the transformation process is where 5S was originally intended to be applied – the individual work place. I don’t want to leave anyone behind as we make this important journey so I will give you all time to get a copy of “The 5S Pocket Guide,” and maybe even a copy of my book, before we step out.

Stay tuned for the next thrilling episode of Extreme 5S – Workplace Organization on Steroids in your favorite industry magazine, CabinetMakerFDM, in your mailbox or online soon.

Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

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About the author
Jim Lewis

Jim Lewis has worked in the furniture industry for 40 years with a special emphasis on facilitating the transformation process for businesses embracing the Lean Business Model.  Jim’s company, The Center for Lean Learning, is headquartered in Grand Rapids, MI, with an office in St. Thomas, ON, Canada.  He is a consultant, author, and writer.  Jim’s books include, “The Journey to Excellence – Successfully Applying Lean Thinking in Your Business,” “A Testament to Lean Thinking – Cases for Change,” and a series of ebooklets under the main title “Applying Lean Thinking.”  The books are in ebook format and are available through all major ebook retailers and through smashwords.com.