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One of the most powerful parts of lean manufacturing that both improve operations and start to change your culture is what is known as the 5 S’s of lean manufacturing.  Yes, I know this is true jargon, but in this case the 5 S’s actually have meaning and is something you might want to use in your company.

SortHaving your work organized in a manner where it can be found.  Using small batches of work allows you to easily sort what you need in way you can find what you need when you need it.  Contrary to popular opinion people really can’t find things when those things are not sorted properly.  Going through stacks of paper or piles of material to find what you need never makes you more efficient.

Set to orderHave the material you need to do your job put together in the order that you’re going to use it.  If the work you’re doing is sequential (and much of the work we do is) make sure it’s organized in a manner where you don’t have to go back and forth to find the material that you need.

ShineThis is something I need to learn.  Working in a sloppy or dirty environment makes you less efficient.  When your work area is clean you will work faster and more efficiently.  In my case, I know that when my work area is clean, I’m happier, more effective, and get much more work done.

StandardizeWhen you figure out how something should be done make it a standard procedure.  We re-invent the wheel too much in the work we do.  Standardization is not an enemy of the world.  In fact, for many people having a standardized process helps them do excellent work and that’s what most of the people we work with want to do.

SustainWhen you have sorted, set your work to order, made it clean, and standardized your work, make sure you have put systems in place to sustain the changes you’ve made.  One of the problems that I’ve heard with lean installations is that positive changes are made, but often people slide and systems are left by the wayside.

The bonus S is to systematize - You must have a system to make the changes permanent.  Sustain is a great idea, but without a system to make your changes permanent there is a good chance that you will backslide.  This will make it that much more difficult the next time you decide you want to start down the road of cultural change.

Josh Patrick

One of my favorite and simple systems is what I call four tiered budgeting.  If you click on the button below you’ll be able to read our report on how to budget in a simple and straightforward way in your company.


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