The Importance of 5S | The third S – Seiketsu (Sparkle)
Akinori Hyodo, former Factory Manager, Toyota HiAce Factory | #AskSensei Event 15 Summary | 17 August 2020
Following the first two steps of seiri (sort) and seiton (set in order), Akinori Hyodo puts seiketsu (sparkle) as the third S despite the fact that many authors usually list seiso (shine) as the third step in the 5S process. Hyodo Sensei explains the reason why and discusses the importance of the safety element in the third S process.
Third S of 5S – Seiketsu (Sparkle)
We are continuing on with our series on 5S today. We first started with seiri or sort and moved onto seiton or set in order in the following webinar. I would say that those two that we have already covered are the most important steps in 5S.
I am taking a guess that for many of you out there, once you learnt about first two steps of sort and set in order, the next S you would probably cover would be seiso or shine.
However, the experience I have had within our company and how our company has gone about it is that as the third S, we have used seiketsu or sparkle instead of seiso or shine.
The basic definition of seiketsu is about maintaining a state of the first two steps once they have been actioned. Certainly, this basic definition is within our definition of seiketsu or sparkle as well. But, we add to this definition the idea of a safe and healthy working environment. This is because safety is our paramount priority in anything that we do. Likewise, providing a good and healthy working environment for our people is also of high importance too. This is why we put seiketsu or sparkle before seiso or shine.
This being said, even with the first 2S processes of seiri and seiton, there is still the angle of safety that we want to address through these first steps in order to create a comfortable and healthy working environment for our employees to be working in.
I trust you will understand what I mean by this if you can reflect on your own home environment, for example, and consider how important it is to have a comfortable home environment for yourself to live within. When setting up your home environment, I am sure you would consider how safe and comfortable it should be. In addition, you would think about how easy it must be for you to move around to do your daily activities at home.
As I often encourage you to do, let’s think for a moment about your kitchen environment again. For instance, what is the height of the bench top or sink of your kitchen? Isn’t it at a height where you can have a comfortable posture at the bench or sink and you are not leaning forward all the way over? I trust that you are at a comfortable angle so that you can cut your ingredients with your knives and do any other preparation required easily and comfortably. This is because there are basic standards around the height of a kitchen bench, sink etc. such that individuals can work comfortably within that space.
Let’s think of the example of when you are vacuuming at home. Usually, vacuum cleaners are designed such that the person using it can hold the vacuum cleaner in a comfortable position with good posture. In some cases, you can even adjust the length of the handle slightly. There are various standards around your home such as the height of a table, bench top etc. that are helping to make your home a comfortable environment for you to live within.
A similar type of thinking can also be applied to your work. So, when you look at your work environment and if your work benches or machines are not at an appropriate height for your employees to work at, for example, you would most likely apply improvements to that area and address the issue.
Generally speaking, we don’t leave so many items randomly placed all over the floor at home, because you and your family members don’t want to have to dodge those items or shift those items out the way every time you move around your home. And, even when you do leave some things on the floor, you will make sure to secure enough space to walk around your home safely and comfortably.
Again, this is what is also required at your work. However, despite the fact that the thinking at home can be applied and should be applied to your work, we often leave the thinking at home and there is a gap between the two environments.
When we are in our work environment, particularly in manufacturing, we tend to focus strongly on the production activities on the shop floor. As a result, we end up putting lots of items and equipment around our workplace and think that having all these things on the shop floor is helping us to increase productivity. But, in reality, they are creating waste and losses in our processes in many regards and making it difficult for us to increase efficiency in a true sense.
Think back again about the example of your home when you are cooking. When you are preparing a meal, I am sure you wouldn’t be just focusing on getting the meal ready and not focusing on anything else. For example, most of us don’t pile up all necessary cooking utensils and ingredients on the preparation bench at once. We would also make sure we can move around the kitchen easily and try not to create a great mess as we prepare meals. This is because we all know we would end up spending more time to get the meal ready if we don’t take all these things into account.
We follow all these practices at home because this will help us to lead a healthy, safe and comfortable lifestyle. So, we need to translate this thinking and approach also to our work environment. This is why we put seiketsu or sparkle as the third S step and try to highlight the point that having a safe and healthy environment to work within is of great importance to us.
When there is a safety incident at work, this is not only going to affect the individual but also the company itself as well as those around the individual especially his/her family. Dealing with these things after the incident has occurred is too late. When a machine breaks down, we can replace the machine with a new one. But with us humans, if one loses a part of his/her body in a safety incident, for example, even if we could somehow get the part back onto that person, things are never going to be the same. This is why we need to be acting before any incidents occur by creating a safe, healthy and comfortable working environment by going through the step of seiketsu or sparkle.
How often should the third S be performed on a macro, micro and individual level ? Also, what should be done by employees and where does the management role come in?
What I am about to say is not only applicable to this question but can also be applied to doing anything. What’s important is to have a clarity around the difference between the roles and responsibilities of each level of an organization such as operators, supervisors and managers. As I have just explained, in terms of our definition of seiketsu or sparkle, safety is a critical component and having a clear understanding of the roles and responsibilities of each level is particularly important when it comes to safety.
Clarifying those roles and responsibilities of each level of your organization will help you decide how often each level should be doing what. In terms of 5S activities as mentioned in the question, those people at the operator level would be doing these things quite frequently and those at a manager level would be checking what has been done at a lower level. Frequency of how often the manager should be checking the shop floor would be determined through clarifying their roles and responsibilities regarding the third S or 5S in general. This would be different at a director level of the organization as well. Frequency of them being involved in the process would be different from those at a manager level.
But, as with anything, the important thing is when you have a problem, you need to take action at that time at the source. When you address the issue by implementing a countermeasure and standardizing it, as part of the standardization, you would also want to put in how frequently it needs to be checked or followed up on. However, depending on what it is, it makes it difficult to give a straight answer as to what level should be doing what at what frequency. It’s all going to depend on each company and how they determine the roles and responsibilities at each level of the organization as well as the issues that come up as time goes by.
For example, let’s think about the example of someone at the higher end of the organization looking at their workplace and noticing an issue concerning safety. If it were myself going through this scenario on the shop floor, based on my experience, I would immediately call those managers and supervisors who are responsible for that area to the actual spot and will discuss it with them there to come up with a solution to the issue. Following that, I would be checking the site frequently, perhaps at least once a day, until I feel confident that the countermeasure put in that spot is fully functioning.
With regard to the company I had my career in, we set up a 5S committee to have the chairman of the company as the head of the committee. So, the chairman had direct engagement and involvement in 5S across our site.
So, depending on the objective of those managers when they are looking at the workplace and what key points they are focusing on, what actually happens and how often something is addressed would be different. You will see a different outcome depending on how you set roles and responsibilities.
In a nutshell, the frequency of doing these activities is important to clarify but it should always get back to how the top management is thinking about 5S and how they want to see it implemented and sustained in their organization.
How often are the sorting and sparkle steps carried out at the operator level at Toyota?
The general rule we have within Toyota is that we work throughout the shift, and after the shift is finished we clean our work area before the next shift starts to a point where it is in a good condition to hand it over to the next shift. However, rather than distinguishing between sort and sparkle, we think of this as 5S as a whole and we create this time outside of the each production shift to do our overall 5S activities. Once we finish with these activities, we then go home. During the shift, operators are expected to focus on their production work but as for those at the team leader/supervisor level and above, they are looking at their workplace and they do this with 5S in mind. So, when they find some issues regarding 5S, the leader in the area fixes those issues as they come across them. But, if there is something that requires more time for a solution, then the leader will set up a plan to resolve the 5S issue.
As for the lower end of the organization, people are doing 5S activities on a daily basis. However, if you go right up to the top end of the organization where you have a president or senior staff, for them to be always looking at 5S on the shop floor is not practical. Therefore, they may select a time throughout a week in their schedule when they go to the shop floor and look at the workplace with a mindset of 5S so that they can understand the status of 5S in their workplace and be guiding the direction from the top as to how their 5S level can improve.
In the early stage of implementing 5S within an organization, the top manager may want to make these visits to the shop floor more frequently and check the status of 5S. But, as people become more aware of 5S and they do 5S activities on a daily basis to the point where it starts to become a natural part of their daily work, then the top manager may be able to lessen the frequency of them going to the shop floor and checking.
When top management has the correct thinking and understanding around 5S and has the correct approach in giving directions around 5S to those below them as well as checking up and following up on the 5S directives and activities happening on the shop floor, this sets a good example for those lower down in the organization. This will help people to get on board and be cooperative with the idea of 5S as well as having them think about being aware of 5S and doing 5S activities every day.
So, at the risk of repeating myself, how often and what frequency top management should be doing these things shouldn’t be a question to be asking. In the end, it gets down to what top management wants to achieve and how they are going to achieve it. It also comes down to the matter of how often and closely top management is looking at their workplace.
For example, any manager in Toyota can answer just about any question they are asked about the area they control. However, I find with a lot of non-Toyota companies that I have been visiting over the last decade or so that many managers are unable to provide an answer when I ask them about a certain issue or question in their area. In most cases, they need to get somebody else from the shop floor to get the answer for them. This is never the case in Toyota. The manager will know about everything in the area of their control and if they didn’t, their boss will be asking them what they are doing during their work hours and question whether they are looking at their workplace at all.
To what extent should we document our 5S practices and activities? If they should be documented, what sort of form is recommended for this documentation?
Based on my experience, my answer to this question is to focus more on “doing” rather than documenting such as listing things up etc. In general, we don’t overemphasize the need of creating documents in doing all 5S activities.
Let’s say, there is an area with 10 operators working and I was responsible for the area in terms of 5S, for example. In this type of situation, I used to divide the area into 10 sub-areas and give responsibility for 5S to each operator in that space. Then, I would put each operator’s 5S information into a visual document for everyone in the team to see and give a score to each area such as 10 out of 10, 7 out of 10 etc. I would then use this type of document as an awareness tool for 5S in the area that I would manage. This can even be built into some recognition system where the area that achieved good scores for the twelve months period would be rewarded with prizes, certificates and the like at the end of the year.
These are just simple ideas but they will help management to show their thinking around 5S and how they wish to raise awareness and promote the idea of 5S in their workplace to get them involved.
Why is “sparkle” needed in a workplace to achieve well-functioning production? For many, it seems to be a waste of time.
Whether it is to do with sparkle, or 5S, or about doing anything in general, there needs to be a clear objective behind the activity being promoted in the first place. When you have that objective, you do the activities in order to achieve that objective but you also need to look at the results of those activities. Did those activities achieve the objective you set out to achieve in the beginning? If they haven’t achieved the objective, we need to be addressing that. The important point is that people shouldn’t be doing these activities just for the sake of it. They need to be doing these activities in order to achieve the objective and for this reason, people need to be able to see whether they have achieved that objective or not. So, sharing results amongst all concerned is an important part of this.
But, when people consider these activities as a waste of time, I am afraid that the results of their activities are not properly seen, felt or recognized, but instead they feel they are just being told to do some “cleaning up” just for the sake of it. I think that not recognizing the result is a missing part of the equation for many companies.
Another important point to consider is communication and raising awareness amongst your people. People needs to understand why they need to do 5S and what the objective is behind their activities. Therefore, it is really important for you to spend enough time to communicate these ideas and ensure the objective is clearly understood by your team at the beginning. But, this is something that is often overlooked. If you haven’t taken these important steps to help your people to understand, they probably won’t get engaged and be involved. In actual fact, they probably won’t be able to be engaged and involved to the level you are expecting them to be.
When people are doing these activities, management may be considering what type of activities and actions people should take, how long it should take and what type of results they are expecting, etc. However, if this information is not shared with those at the lower levels of the organization, they would probably see it as just using their time and not seeing the result of the time that has been used. That is why, the communication and the activities to help everyone to understand what’s behind it all and providing feedback regarding the results are really important not only for those at the higher levels but also for the lower levels.
And, if things are not working or accepted at the lower levels, this is all the responsibility of those in management. Management needs to be driving the change, checking up on the change and ensuring that it’s getting traction and things are moving along in the right direction. But, as I said earlier, even before these things can happen, they need to be ensuring that everyone is on board and understands the objective and what’s exactly involved. All of the responsibilities surrounding these types of things sit with management.
So, what is the objective of doing 5S? From the perspective of management and those at the higher end of the organization, it is to make the workplace better. When 5S activities make the workplace better, they are not wasteful activities. These activities are not a waste of time. So, if those activities are being understood as a waste of time, then management is not communicating their message properly. Those at the management level must fulfill the responsibility of communicating their message better to make sure everyone understands that 5S activities are conducted in order to improve their workplace.
When people are making improvements, they get good results out of these improvements. When good results are achieved, then management gets a pat on the back for that. Therefore, it would be in management’s best interest to be setting things up right for success.
To sum up, if any 5S activity is seen as a waste of time at the lower end of the organization, a reflection needs to happen at the management level and they need to make the objective behind those activities clearer and make sure people see the result of their activities.
#AskSensei is a regularly-scheduled webinar held together with Shinka Management Senior Lean Consultant Akinori Hyodo, who formerly enjoyed a career with Toyota rising from operator and team leader at Toyota, right up to factory manager and director of Toyota’s HiAce Factory. Each event we cover a different topic related to lean, with participants invited to put their questions to Hyodo Sensei.
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