The 411 on 5S

and execution:

Select a team: Selecting the right team members makes a huge difference when planning a 5S event. If the frontline staff works in shifts, ensure you have representation from each shift. You can communicate the changes via email or in person but it doesn’t have the same impact. A staff member coming in the night, for example, might feel frustrated for not finding the items in their usual place. The items that you red-tagged in the ‘Sort’ phase to dispose of later could be something used in the night shift.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate: Everyone involved should be able to get a straight answer from you when they ask these questions:

1.    What changes are you making?
2.    Why are you making the change? What’s in it for me?
3.    How long will it take?
4.    How will I be impacted by the change?
5.    What is my role in the change?

If this is 5 day-long event, make sure you communicate everyday at the end of the day via email or a visual board in the area.

Involve all relevant departments:  5S Kaizen involves a lot of real-time changes. A spaghetti diagram gives you an idea of the convoluted flow due to the wrong placement of equipment and supplies. When you plan to move the equipment around to a new location, make sure you have a representative from facilities involved to create a new electrical socket. If you are going to reduce the inventory or move it around, involve materials management. They might have great ideas to dispose of extra supplies either to other departments or send back to the vendors and get some credit.

5S Pictures
Using pictures of items in a 5S review can save confusion and problems

Ask why: Before you remove or move things around, ask why an item is on the shop floor/work area and in that particular location to the people who work there. If the answer is, “Oh that’s where it has always been,” don’t hesitate to organize it such that it enhances the workflow. However, you might find some really good reasons why things are where they are. At one of the hospitals where I facilitated a 5S event, our team found that the entire bar-coded supplies were organized in a way that matched the online ordering system. If we made any changes to the location or quantity of supplies it would have messed their ordering system.

Use the same language: It is very common in hospitals for nurses and materials handlers to have a different nomenclature for the same item. Water for Oxygen for a nurse could be prefilled humidifier for the material handler. Use pictures to ensure everyone is on the same page.

Post a Suggestion Board: Post a white board or flip chart in the area to capture suggestions, issues and/or compliments regarding the event. You will be surprised how quickly the board gets filled up. This is a good way of getting people involved and getting their buy-in by incorporating relevant suggestions.

Sustain: Communicate changes and train staff not involved in the 5S event regarding their responsibilities. As a manager you should set up some time on your calendar, weekly in the beginning, to walk through the 5S areas and do a 5S score to see if the changes are maintained. Have people assigned to refill supplies, maintain location and quantities. Capture any issues that people face due to the changes. There will be a learning curve in the beginning, but if the changes are adversely affecting flow, discuss with the team and make changes accordingly. Make sure the new changes are communicated promptly to everyone involved. Gradually you can change the frequency of the walkthrough to monthly and quarterly.

Any other tips to add to the list?

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