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Lean Briefing Reader Commentary

5S Fast & Simple 

Discussion Background

In our Lean Briefing #45, I stated that the benefits of 5S were significant but difficult to measure for a variety of reasons. Several thoughtful readers took issue with this and some provided results and narratives from their 5S implementations. 

The discussion has been stimulating and, it seems to me, that there is no longer serious disagreement between any of the participants. I am suggesting some joint  conclusions and you may read the original comments below. These comments are also reflected in our page on 5S Benefits.   --Quarterman Lee

Conclusions On 5S Benefits

  • 5S is an integral part of a larger manufacturing strategy and the total effects cannot be measured in isolation.

  • It IS difficult to measure SOME of these effects directly but they are often reflected, at least partially, in other metrics. 

  • Directly measurable effects are significant and these alone are sufficient to justify the investment and effort.

Anthony V. Element (Australia)

Electric Motors

Sorry to be critical, but your argument that 5S benefits are difficult to quantify is fundamentally flawed.

First, you are making the mistake of addressing 5S in isolation. When Taichii Ohno developed the suite of concepts that make up LE for Toyota, he was adamant that they all worked together, harmoniously. You simply cannot discuss any aspect of LE in isolation. 

In terms of relevant figures, here's one example that relates directly to the link between 5S and throughput. Some years ago I was General Manager of an electric motor manufacturer in Australia. We had begun introducing LE with company wide training on:

The factory workers response for the most part was, "We know the Chinese will have our jobs someday but this is the first time we've felt like we could fight back. We'll give it a go." 

We then implemented 5S thoroughly, i.e. each S got a good going over right across the company , (that means offices and factory.) The staff decided to pile it all up in the car park so we could viscerally sense that we were doing something significant. Much hilarity about the size of the mountain that ensued.

Anyway, the C Frame production people suddenly discovered the distance they were traveling because now that the clutter was gone the space they traversed between work centres, tool boards, parts racks, etc., was made obvious by the emptiness. Before we'd gotten around to actually having a kaizen, they moved all the machines, tools, and parts together. Doing nothing else resulted in:

All this and we hadn't yet done a kaizen event.

We had a pizza lunch to celebrate and that was when the real benefit came out. One of the C Frame team said, as best as I can remember: "If we can make this much improvement from nothing more than a big Spring clean, what's going to happen when we've done all this LE (expletive deleted)."

That was several years ago and the factory's still there. Although the products aren't as cheap as imports, production can turn on a dime in response to customer requirement changes, and that the Chinese can't do without a local warehouse which eats their price advantage.

Hope that helps. Cheers,

Michel E. Hess (U.S.)

Financial Call Center

"In our call center operation, 5S eliminates distractions, promotes consistency and reduces wasted motion. It greatly enhanced our office rearrangement and helped our  conversion to paperless processing."

Brian Levitan (Australia)

I disagree that the benefits of 5S are hard to quantify. Here are some examples:

Roll Forming
Welding Wire Plant

After a 5S Blitz on a steel slitting line (3 day event because of the culture change) there was a huge improvement in quality. This impacted favorably on the downstream downtime of the wire lines, thus a huge improvement in OEE resulting from an improvement in quality from an upstream process. Yet, the focus was on culture change and not quality itself.

Americo Chiruque (Mozambique)

Basic Metals

After reading this article, I felt that it could raise a very interesting debate, especially amongst those who are (or have been) part of a 5S implementation team.

When we started the 5S implementation at Mozal in 2003, this was one of the questions put and although the importance of the initiative was clear to us, it was not easy to give a sort of a mathematical answer to it. 

Now, about three years down the line, we can feel that 5S is a pre-requisite for creation of a high performance culture in the organisation as it helps to establish the basics. I tend to believe that no one can achieve big accomplishments without being able to do small things.

Last month I received a safety report that was making a correlation between HSE audit findings and 5S audit findings and the conclusion was the following:

It is possible to extend this analysis to other correlations such as quality of 5S versus productivity, etc. This is because the key for good safety performance is discipline and appropriate behaviour.


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