By Jon Miller | Post Date: May 12, 2008 10:20 AM | Comments: 4
It was midnight body time and 8AM in Amsterdam. Sitting in the KLM lounge waiting for a connection, the two men in the chairs next to me speak with American accents: "So I want to go over what they are doing. Hour by hour charts? Standard work? Process capability? 5S?"
Surely I'm hallucinating from overwork, but no, it's a small world and lean manufacturing is playing a bigger part in it than ever before. This sounded like a meeting between a site lean leader and an corporate lean consultant. The conversation went on like this for some minutes, with the corporate lean guy ticking off a list of lean tools in his day planner and the site lean guy dodging and weaving in return, sometimes giving good reasons why these tools had been put in place, and sometimes not.
The conversation was not very interesting and quite ignorable until the volume increased due to some comments about quality mishaps followed by loud laughter, distracting me from my work. Trying not to eavesdrop, one exchange jumped out and could not be ignored.
"So what are you doing about standard work?" Corporate lean guy asks.
"As far as I'm concerned, 5S is the foundation of standard work. You can't have standards without it." Says site lean guy. Then suddenly, "To be honest, I just want the #$%@ to clean things up."
To be honest, there are a number of things very wrong with that statement. He started out right by saying that 5S is the foundation for standard work. The two can certainly exist separately but for people to be able to follow standard work, the area must be sorted and straightened. Even if the area is dirty and disorganized, it must at least be predictably and repeatably so. In fact you can have standards without 5S, and Taiichi Ohno the father of TPS even said that it was better to have a poor standard that you can observe and improve than to have no standard at all.
To be honest is a good thing, but for someone who is presumably a site lean leader to "just want (disrespectful term for people) to clean things up" misses the entire spirit of 5S, if not lean management itself. You can tell people to just clean up, and this man probably has, to no avail. He will continue to fail until starts with mutual respect, he makes an explicit link in demonstrable fact and in the minds of workers that 5S reduces variation in the methods, time and effort it takes to do their job. The practice of 5S is groundwork for basic management, lean or not. If you can't move people to do 5S, good luck with the rest.
It was a teachable moment, but it was almost time for boarding. I didn't check to see whether the corporate lean guy with the long list of lean tools had his head in his hands or jaw on the floor.Comments are moderated to filter spam and inappropriate content. There may be a delay before your comment is published.