How to Implement Lean Manufacturing – Sort and Shine (5S): Part 5

Rick Bohan

We left off at Implementation Schedules and Red Tag areas.  So, by now, your teams should be regularly stopping their work for short periods and carrying out Sort and Shine.  That means they are:

  1. Getting rid of stuff.  As in, putting it in the dumpster;
  2. Taking other stuff to the Central Red Tag area;
  3. Sweeping, cleaning, wiping down, degreasing, scrubbing…and inspecting everything that’s left.

Let’s talk about each of those in turn.

Getting Rid of Stuff

It would seem this is pretty simple, right?  Get rid of garbage, junk, obsolete, unused, and unneeded…crap.  Just toss it out.  But I’ve found that one person’s junk is another’s treasure.  (Or potential treasure.)  I was helping a client plant with 5S a number of years ago.  We were going through a bunch of extrusion molds that were just jumbled together.  Whenever the team identified an old, out-of-date mold, it was thrown away.  After a bit, the plant manager wandered by and took a look into the small scrap bin we were tossing the molds into.  The next thing we knew, he was head and shoulders into the bin, pulling the molds that we had just tossed in, back out again.  I asked him why the heck he was doing so.  He replied, “You never know when we might get that product back again.”.    I have similar stories from other clients.

And that points to the problem…lots of stuff lies around most manufacturing plants, not because people are too lazy to clean it up but because no one wants to take the time to decide what to do with much of what’s cluttering the place up.  That’s why I sometimes start the Sort and Shine by doing some brainstorming with the team to develop criteria for “Throw It Away”.    In any case, my slogan is, “Throw it away.  If you just can’t, send it to the Central Red Tag area and let the committee decide.”  It’s tough to set hard and fast rules about what should and shouldn’t be tossed out if you’re not the one that might need it someday.

Take Other Stuff to the Red Tag Area

The Red Tag Area might not seem to be a big deal but it really helps to make it all work.  Teams don’t have to get stuck trying to decide what to do with something that they don’t need but don’t feel comfortable tossing into the dumpster.  Send it to the Red Tag area and let the Red Tag Committee worry about it.  What should the Red Tag Committee do with all the stuff that gets put into the Area?  Throw it away, sell it, repair it, send it back to the area whence it originally came…whatever needs to be done.

During the implementation phase of Sort and Shine, the Red Tag Committee should visit the Area once a week. Later, the Committee will find that it doesn’t need to visit as often.

Sweeping, Cleaning…and Inspecting

Too often, the Shine part of Sort and Shine is given short shrift…very short shrift.  Too often, it consists of finding that greasy, old, worn-out broom, taking a few swipes under and around the equipment, and you’re done.  Initial Shine means getting all the years of accumulation of dirt, grease, oil, and dust off of everything.  It might mean taking extra effort and expense to get equipment and facilities clean, like steam cleaning, dry ice or walnut shell blasting, and/or painting.  It certainly means getting close enough to machines and equipment to inspect them for damage of any sort.  (A good Sort and Shine nearly always leads to a flurry of maintenance work orders, so get your maintenance team ready.)

When I’m coaching supervisors and operators on Sort and Shine, I tell them that some surfaces are more important than others.  That broad, flat side of a press might be easy to clean but its cleanliness isn’t as important as that of the air, oil, and water valves, the electrical panels and connections, the motors, the operating panels, and the gages of all sorts.  Remember, the primary objective of all this is to make is easy to see whether the process is in control or not.  It’s harder to tell if something is “in control” if it’s covered with grease and grime.

So, there you have it.  Take it in small bites (my recommendation) or do it all at once…either can work.  But don’t avoid the urgent need to get your workplace cleaned and organized.


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