Success with “Five S”

“Many years ago I worked as a process engineer for General Electric at a watt-hour meter plant where they made their own magnets.

There was one blacksmith who came in at 6 AM, much to the displeasure of the union, and started up his hearth so it would be ready by 8 AM at start of shift. After 4 PM he reversed the process by shutting down and cleaning up so everything would be organized and spotless for the next day.

There were no problems of sustainability or reverting to old habits. The driving force was “pride”

Today, we would be hard pressed to find my “blacksmith”.

What we have today are clusters of people working as a team on activity that is typically defined by best practice protocols. The protocols comprise steps that must be performed in a particular sequence. This is the mainline activity of each group.

The resource allocation model used to dispatch work is automated yet unimposing. If there are several people able to perform a task, a task broadcasts to all of these and the first one to “pick up” the task performs it.

There is absolutely no reason Five S activity, which is generally perceived as off-line to mainstream production activity, cannot not be blended in with the mainstream activity such that Five S daily, weekly, etc tasks post the same way as production activity.

If there is a designated single person in a team who is responsible for the Five S tasks, these tasks will post to that person’s InTray, if not these tasks will post to a wider audience with the expectation that someone will pick up and perform such tasks without fanfare, same as they perform production work.

Making Five S routines easy to follow, complete with, for example, an instruction set that shows a picture of how things look when Five S is done properly, with audits consisting of snapshots of how things look each day, for me, puts the required “culture” in-line, making it part of ordinary work and not some “overhead” work that is regarded as undesirable.

You could easily via data collection/analysis at in-line Five S tasks, calculate who the “employee of the month” is.

I think this team approach to Five S would work very well and I welcome comments.


Management consultant and process control engineer (MSc EE) with a focus on bridging the gap between operations and strategy in the areas of critical infrastructure protection, connect-the-dots law enforcement investigations, healthcare services delivery, job shop manufacturing and b2b/b2c/b2d transactions. (C) 2010-2018 Karl Walter Keirstead, P. Eng. All rights reserved. The opinions expressed here are those of the author, and are not connected with Jay-Kell Technologies Inc, Civerex Systems Inc. (Canada), Civerex Systems Inc. (USA) or CvX Productions.
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