Cimlogic’s LSS black belt, Keith Findlay presents a practical guide to assuring success and resisting the temptation to overcomplicate. 

It’s something I’ve seen all too often. Lean Practitioners take a somewhat simple task and somehow complicate the life out of it.

By forcing a lean implementation to become an intricate web of task balancing and analysis, the practitioners often impede the entire process.

How do I know this? I was that lean complicator. So excited by the thrills of being the lean guru, I forgot to stop and review the process from start to finish and without looking at it from any other perspective but my own, and became entwined in a snowballing series of my own lean complications.

5S is one of the easiest Lean practices to implement yet it’s still the most frequently failed, and it’s not difficult to see why. I could talk all day about things that could go wrong and why they go wrong, but instead why don’t we review how to get it right first time.

Lean initiators often add additional ‘S’’s to 5S to make the system unique to their organisation. I’ve seen ‘sort’ turn into sort and scrap, and ‘set’ turn into set and straighten, but there is no need to add extra ‘S’’s to 5S, don’t overcomplicate it, there’s five S’s in 5S for a reason- leave it alone.

Another mistake implementers make is focusing on cleanliness and hygiene during their implementation; they focus on one S in particular rather, than the other four S’s which concentrate on the vital improvement of the functions and processes of the company.

Unfortunately, organisations often have the desire and the appetite, when implementing new philosophies like 5S, but lack the maturity; it’s important to consider this before you go all guns blazing and execute processes before the organisation is ready.

There is a lot to be said about cat-walking your ideas and goals to the wider audience before any action is physically taken on the shop floor.

Showing people what you are looking to achieve, how you are going to achieve it, how it will impact them, and how you are going to support this change, allows people to understand what lean means to the business and the part they play in it.

Why not start by considering how visual factory methods can support your 5S implementation. If visual factory standards don’t exist, create them, but ensure you get buy-in from as many departments as possible, and specifically engineering. Top management usually prefer to track KPIs, so why not inform them of progression, successes, roadblocks and other impacting information as part of your process. The power of communication is often a missed opportunity.

Use the time that it takes for the organisation to absorb this new information to develop your tools, documentation, and systems, so that you’re good to go when the time is right.

By implementing lean systems as simply as possible you will ease the entire process, and drive the understanding and buy-in amongst other departments, making your job a lot less complicated.


This blog was originally published by Cimlogic.