Increasing Productivity and Profits Through 5-S: Part 3 - Implementing Change

The Straighten, Scrub, Standardize and Sustain steps from the 5-S program keep plants on track to achieve lean manufacturing.

By Tom Dossenbach
Top: The old (Friday afternoon).

Bottom: The new (Saturday morning).

The better-organized storage cabinet, built into the assembly table, is a good example of what to do in the second step of the 5-S process.

This month, we complete our look at the 5-S workplace management steps to form a good foundation for a continuous improvement process that leads to a sound, lean manufacturing effort. Last month, you and I, as a team, visited Tetragon Cabinet & Furniture Co. where we conducted a 5-S mini blitz to explain the process and to identify problems at Tetragon. (If you missed the Part 1 and 2 Management Matters installments, please find your March and April Wood & Wood Products issues and review them now.)

In Part 2, we looked at two target areas in the plant, through photographs of the machine and assembly areas, and discussed the first of the 5-S steps - Sort. Since we determined what items belonged in the target work spaces and made decisions on what to do with those items that did not belong, we can now continue our look at the 5-S process at Tetragon by going through the final four steps.


Now that we have finished sorting within the target areas, the next step in the 5-S process is to organize the target areas into a more compact space that is conducive to good workflow and high productivity. Thus, the second S is for Straighten.

We realize that it will take some thought and planning to organize each target area, so we decide to talk with some of the employees in the various departments and come up with a plan. You remind us that the whole idea of 5-S is to get all employees involved in the continuous improvement process in a way that makes a visual difference and also eliminates waste. You stress that we should remember the goal of lean manufacturing is to eliminate all waste.

Alan, the supervisor of the assembly area, was especially embarrassed by the condition of the storage cabinet at one of the workstations during the sorting exercise Friday afternoon. He says he found an old workbench with built-in storage and replaced the steel cabinet overnight (see photos below). While this is a very simple example, you compliment Alan on his understanding of the purpose of yesterday's 5-S Sorting exercise and his quick response to Straighten and organize the area. We encourage him to have a new table built for each assembler as quickly as possible.

Meanwhile, in the machine department, there is a heated discussion about the orange-tagged stacks of inventory that were moved out of the target area (see photos in the April issue). Scott, the plant manager, is with Charles, plant supervisor, as they discover the cause of the mess. Overproduction of parts led to three stacks of parts that were going to be used in the next run of the pieces that used them. This sounds good until Charles admits that those parts have been there for three months and could have been used many times over.

I mention, "It is always best to prevent over-production." Scott says they will rework these parts immediately into something they can use and devise a way to eliminate this from happening again.

There is a big pile of rejects that have been sorted at the moulder. Everyone agrees that those parts should have been reprocessed within hours, instead of waiting for days or weeks. The area behind the clamp carrier holds more of the same type of materials. As part of the Straightening step, they were sorted and moved where they could be run through a value-added process to fill current orders. By mid-morning, the floor in the target areas are 75 percent empty.

Charles exclaims, "I never knew there was so much room in here."

I suggest that they spend additional time thinking of how to rearrange some of the machines to capitalize on this new-found floor space in order to eliminate materials handling from machine-to-machine and the inventory in between them.

"You mean like machining centers or cells?" one of the employees asks.

It only takes them about thirty minutes to identify a series of shapers, sanders and clamps that can be grouped together to make a work cell capable of producing a large percentage of doors required throughout their product line. A quick calculation reveals that 12 to 15 pallets of work-in-progress would be eliminated by this move and that all of the floor space used to queue parts between machines now would remain clear.

Cliff, the maintenance foreman, states that he read one of my articles on reducing setups the NASCAR way (May 2005 Management Matters) and suggests that they provide a well-organized tool storage area for each machine, including shadow boards for placement of tools and cutters. Everyone agrees that Cliff's idea is a good application of the Straighten step in 5-S.

They all express enthusiasm and you can feel the energy spreading throughout Tetragon. Aisle floors are painted after the machines are moved and some areas are marked for work-in-progress storage - although it is much smaller than what was being used on Friday. An area designated for placing a drum of glue is marked in red on the floor and the spot at the clamp carrier for the glue drum being used is also clearly marked.


Now that the target areas have been straightened, it is time to move on to the third step in 5-S and give a good Scrubbing, cleaning and painting wherever it is needed. Scott decides to do just that on Saturday afternoon and night.

Cliff has his crew go over every inch of each machine and clean every drop of oil and grease to be found. He indicates that by doing this, the operators will be able to check daily for leaks as they clean up their machines.

Operator's Daily Checklist

1. Have you cleaned your tools and put them in their place?

2. Are any tools or tooling missing?

3. Have you cleaned and stored jigs and fixtures in their proper place?

4. Are the jigs and fixtures all there and in working order?

5. Have you cleaned your machine and left the floor spotless?

6. Have you checked the machine thoroughly to look for oil leaks?

7. Have you listened for any strange sounds while the machine was running?

8. Have you removed all items that are not needed at this workstation?

9. Have you performed your assigned Total Productive Maintenance tasks for today?

10. Is there anything else that needs to be done to better organize your workplace?

"In fact," Cliff says, "we need to paint some of these older machines so that operators can tell when they are clean, and can see cracks in the frames and recognize leaks easier."

Sure enough, Sally, a moulder operator, calls Cliff over to the moulder to show him a seal that looks like it was leaking after she wiped down the underneath section of the machine. Cliff replies, "This is going to save you a half-day of downtime, Sally. Thanks. This is a win-win for you, me and our customers."

Cliff is right. He reminds everyone that they can learn more about Total Preventive Maintenance by going back to the February 2006 issue of W&WP and reading the Management Matters column.

This third step in the 5-S process is important to take advantage of the re-organized target areas at Tetragon and make them a more inviting and productive place to work. I recommend that the Tetragon people rope off new-found floor space until a proper use for it can be determined. Otherwise, those who have not adopted 5-S in their departments yet will fill it with their own overflow of unnecessary items.


Scott asks, "What do we do next? What is the fourth S?"

You reply, "Standardize."

Scott then asks, "What does that mean?"

As an example, I show Scott an operator's daily checklist I have conveniently placed in my pocket in anticipation of such a question. I tell him, "Look this over, Scott. It is a good example of how to document procedures and rules so everyone will know how to keep 5-S moving forward at Tetragon." (The Operator's Daily Checklist questions are on page 34. This is a short list that standardizes some of the procedures at a machine). If Scott uses an Operator's Daily Checklist at each machine or cell, it will become a Standard and keep the shop from slipping back to the old ways.

A rule or "Standard" is created, documented and posted at the glue storage area (painted red on the floor). The Standard indicates that whenever this particular area is empty, it is time to immediately pull a barrel of glue from storage and place it in that same spot. Thus, the storage area keeper will look for this empty space on his daily rounds, pull an inventory (Kanban) card, and get a drum from storage to replenish the one that is now at the clamp carrier. In this way, less factory floor space will be used for storing multiple glue drums and there always will be a convenient one to replenish the clamp carrier spreader on demand.

Scott and Charles also document procedures to eliminate the build-up of scrap and overruns in the target areas. They plan to post them in the break room on a 5-S board and also throughout the target areas.

Scott remarks, "I've got it. The whole idea of Standardize is to communicate ways to define what we need to do to have an effective, ongoing 5-S program, right?"

I tell Scott he is right-on and you say, "Maybe you could take photographs of the areas on Monday morning and post them as a new standard for how the target areas should look at the end of each day".

You have grabbed the essence of the fourth S.


After going this far, there really is only one logical step left for an effective 5-S workplace management program. That step is to Sustain the effort. I give a short sermon on the fact that without the documented standards in step four to let everyone know what to do to keep the program ongoing, this exercise is just another housekeeping chore. I remind Scott that, as plant manager, he is responsible for seeing that those standards are followed so that the plant never slips back to its old ways.

I add, "If you are not going to sustain 5-S, don't start, because it will just show employees that you are not really serious about continuous improvement or lean manufacturing, and it will destroy your integrity."

As we leave the Tetragon plant, I relate how I went into a plant a few months ago and saw signs on the wall about TPM and 5-S and even saw a display board or two. However, after a quick walk through the plant, it was apparent both were abandoned long ago. As it turned out, I was correct and the employees had little interest in a new â??program of the day'.

Now that you are back from our tour and in your own plant, are you willing to learn more and take all of the 5-S steps toward lean?

Tom Dossenbach is the managing director of Dossenbach Associates LLC, a Sanford, NC-based international consulting and research firm. Contact him at (919) 775-5017 or e-mail Visit his Web site at


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