For those of us in the Process Improvement realm, we are very familiar with 5S (yes I know many people often add the 6th S for safety). My first encounter with 5S occurred as a kid getting paid to work weekends (i.e. allowance) cleaning up the shop while my dad was working. It didn’t seem like a big deal at the time. I didn’t know I was following a tried and true method for improving efficiency in the work place. I was simply doing what my father asked so that we could go to the candy shop, sporting goods store, or pet shop on our way home. However, 5s launched my career as a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt long before I knew what I was doing.
This exposure to 5S and following a process to accomplish a goal set the foundation for process improvement and quality management for my entire life.
- As a student, I had a place for everything and everything had its place. Before I started any assignment I would be sure that I had everything I needed to get the job done before I ever got started, snack included.
- As an athlete (soccer goalkeeper), I prepared meticulously, shining my cleats, taking care of my gloves before and after practice, putting air in my soccer ball, making sure I had all of my equipment packed before practice/games (as well as back-ups), and ensuring my water bottle was clean, full and cold.
- As a coach, I ensured I had a practice plan, I had the equipment ready to run my sessions, I made sure I had a backup plan (in case something unexpected happened), and I expected excellence in preparation by my players.
- As a business professional, I utilize all of the things that I mentioned above to make sure that I can get the most out of my day. But, it all starts with having a clean and organized work space and ensuring that there is a place for everything and that everything has its place.
Now I know that everything I mentioned above doesn’t necessarily align directly with 5s. So, with a nod of deference to the Japanese I will do a quick review.
5S ensures work spaces are kept clean and organized to form the foundation of a Lean office. It involves five steps:
- Sort - Sorting through the contents of an area and removing unnecessary items
- Set in Order - Arranging necessary items for easy and efficient access
- Shine - Keeping everything clean as a way to ensure that the work area is always in a condition to support claims processing
- Standardize - Creating standard, visual guidelines for keeping the work area organized, orderly and clean
- Sustain – Educating, communicating, and auditing to ensure everyone follows the 5S standards
When following the simple steps of 5S we find that we get more done by creating a cleaner, more organized work environment, enabling faster and easier access to the computers, references, work products, and office material they needed to accomplish work. The anticipated benefits include:
- The ability to identify and eliminate waste
- Standardized work station setup for each position
- Decreased document retrieval times
- Reduced clutter
- Improved employee health and safety
So what is the point?
The point is, whether we are a parent, a coach, or an employer/manager, 5S should be part of our approach to helping anyone we advise. We are not only helping them better prepare for the task at hand but, we are helping them prepare for the bigger things in life that will eventually arise.
The Common Sensei