Keys to Sustaining 5S

5S is a commonly talked discussed and implemented lean concept.  The purpose is to quickly see if anything is abnormal through workplace organization.  Organizations are able to implement 5S originally and are pleased with the results.  Over time though things begin to slip backwards though.

How can the 5S efforts be sustained?


Here are a few tips I have used through the years that help:

  1. Audit, Audit, Audit – People will tell me that auditing is by definition waste and they are trying to cut out waste.  I agree.  Auditing is waste, but in my expereince about 75% of the time we have to choose which waste is better to live with.  In this case, which waste is worthe living with the waste of auditing or the waste of downtime because tools can’t be found?  The waste of auditing is less wasteful.
  2. Audit at a Standard Day/Time – I have had managers say they want to mix it up and do surprise audits.  That way they see what is “really” going on.  I don’t like this.  It creates an us vs. them mentality.  The manager is out to “get them” and catch them doing the wrong thing.  The managers tell me that the employees will clean up and get in order because they know there will be an audit.  My answer…Fine.  If the manager is auditing on a regular basis eventually the employees will get tired of cleaning up for it and will maintain it.  Also, it is better to have it right for a little bit around the audit time then never which happens with the surprise audits.
  3. Make the Audit Part of the Leader Standard Work – Add the audit to the leader standard work.  This makes it more visible when it isn’t done and questions can be asked to better understand why.
  4. From the Top Down Should Audit – If 5S is that important then everyone should be involved in auditing.  A common structure I have used is the plant manager audits once a month, the production and department managers audit twice a month and the supervisors audit once a week.  When the employees see the plant, production, and department managers all auditing on a regular basis they will understand the importance of maintaining 5S.

These tips could be used for anything that is important to driving the business.  5S seems to be the one concept that has this discussion the most.

Good luck in sustaining your 5s efforts!