Many people are familiar with the production management techniques of W. Edwards Deming who taught the Japanese a principle of management which increased the quality and reduced costs in the car manufacturing industry in the 1950s. Deming divided the goal of achieving business effectiveness into 14 key principles which were published in his book Out of the Crisis.
He believed that the key to improved quality and lower costs was practicing continual improvement and thinking of manufacturing as a system, not as bits and pieces. As an American, Deming provided the Japanese with an approach that worked well for them. Toyota’s current problems notwithstanding, perhaps the learning can flow the other way — as we look at what Japanese automakers have been able to achieve over time. While we are not endorsing any or every Japanese approach to management — it is often useful to borrow management ideas from other cultures.
This is the time of year many of us think of “Spring Cleaning,” and sometimes as managers it is a challenge to instill the “neatness/efficiency gene” into our employees. Below, we discuss a Japanese organizational system called 5S you might find useful.
The 5S Approach
5S is a Japanese methodology that was also first used in the automotive industry to improve productivity. The ultimate goal of 5S is for continuous improvement in the workplace. The five S’s in the 5S organizational system are Sort (Seiri), Set (Seiton), Shine (Seiso), Standardize (Seiketsu), and Sustain (Shitsuke) and we argue that following this advice — akin to your Mom’s admonition to “clean up your room,” can be a useful and productive management strategy.
5S in your feed and grain business can offer a variety of benefits. It can decrease time wasted looking for tools, improve safety, increase employee morale, and build a company culture that is based on taking ownership for the facility.
While it may have been developed to enhance productivity in a manufacturing environment, 5S can be implemented in the grain elevator, feed store and in employee offices. 5S creates a more efficient environment by improving the organization system of the operation. By optimizing productivity and reducing waste by maintaining an organized work area and through the use of visual aids — a more efficient and productive workplace is created. By implementing this strategy your facility will be cleaned up and standardized in order to help your employees who use the space to become as efficient as possible.
When choosing an area to “5S,” it is important to not try to conquer more than you can handle. Choosing an office, shop or production line will keep you focused on a manageable area to work with.
Sort // Seiri
The first step in the process is Sort. This step will open up the space you have to work with and make it easier to find the things you need. Select an area and go through everything, deciding what is absolutely needed for the operators in the area. Through this process you will put your hands on everything in the area and determine if it is needed — or not! This might mean getting rid of items that are not used often enough to justify taking up space in your area.
Tools and supplies that are not frequently used should be moved to a separate storage space. Keeping items that might be used “someday” is not helpful and will only clutter the area you are trying to organize.
Broken tools, outdated fixtures, scrap material, and generally unused items may be difficult to part with, but eliminating them will help restore order to your work area. In this step you will want to clean up the work area, which in addition to looking nice will make it easier to spot a grain or feed leak under an auger or leg. Safety of your employees is also improved when they don’t have to maneuver over the items taking up your floor space in a haphazard manner.