Written by Steve Stephenson
What are the disadvantages of 5S? What problems have people had with 5S?
The major problems with 5S appear when it is not properly understood, used or implemented. These include:
Change is always difficult and 5S typically brings big changes to the workplace. Habits are difficult to change and people just don't like change.
One approach to implementing change is the boiling the frog approach. If a frog is dropped into a pot of hot water it will jump out. But if it is placed into a pot of cool water, and then the water is slowly heated to boiling, it will stay in the pot and be cooked. It does not notice the slow, gradual change in water temperature.
By implementing 5S slowly people become used to the new way of doing things. They incorporate 5S into their daily routine without a significant disruption.
Another approach to implementing change is to get employee buy-in. This means that the ideas for implementing 5S come from the employees. This makes 5S a change they understand and desire. To accomplish this start including 5S concepts in all of your training, including safety training and skills training. Also, ensure your management and supervisory staff are up-to-speed on 5S and are completely supporting it. They need to understand the problems 5S solves and how 5S works.
This is a bottom up approach in which employees are given the ability to identify problems (through training) and they are the ones who implement the solution by applying 5S principles.
A third approach to implementing 5S is for management to create a plan for using 5S in the workplace and then implement that plan. Part of the plan should involve up-front training so that workers know what 5S is, what it accomplishes, and what they are expected to do. This is a top down implementation of 5S that requires management to be fully trained and participating in the 5S process.
The following was overheard at the water cooler this morning: "I've heard that 5S is delivering impressive results over at Acme, I think we should do the same thing here."
Those words can be a major problem for 5S. Doing the "same thing" with 5S as someone else has can lead to a 5S disaster. In general 5S provides a framework that is used to eliminate waste in the workplace. But that framework must be used in a way such that it addresses the specific situation in each workplace.
For example, at Acme the major problem may have been scrap and debris was left scattered around the work areas. Once this was cleaned up, materials could be more easily moved and safety dramatically improved.
In your workplace one of the significant problems might be that workers need to walk several hundred yards to a tool room, multiple time a day, to get needed tools. Implementing 5S will move the tools so they are stored close to where they are used.
Be sure you are using 5S to address actual problems, And as 5S is implemented watch for new areas that can be improved. For example, cleaning up oil on machines might reveal locations where there are oil leaks that need to be repaired. Solving one problem – dirty oily machines – reveals an underlying problem of oil leaks.
Do as I say, not as I do.
Without the full support of management it is difficult for 5S to succeed. 5S is not just for manufacturing, it applies to every part of a business or organization – including the sales, marketing and accounting departments... and the executive suite. Management not only needs to provide the financial and staffing support needed to implement 5S, management needs to lead by example.
Do as I do.
5S is not a magic bullet that solves every workplace problem. That's why there are other lean manufacturing techniques such as kaizen, TPM, SMED and and kanban. Each of these addresses different problems, but they all also have some overlap and they work together synergistically.
Expecting 5S to do more than what it does will lead to failure because 5S on its own will not accomplish what was expected.
5S is a system that is primarily targeted at eliminating waste by cleaning up, organizing and establishing standards in the workplace. When compared with the cost, 5S may be the most effective lean technique. However, it takes more than 5S alone to find and eliminate waste and maximize the use of your resources.
The problems and disadvantages of 5S are not that 5S does not work. They arise from unrealistic expectations or 5S not being fully and properly implemented.
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