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To 5S or Not to 5S – And What the Heck is the 5S Method Anyway? – Part III

Today, we will explore the last 3 S’s; Shine, Standardize, and Sustain.   


How are you going to maintain this so you don’t have to do it again next year?  Cleaning up will only produce the desired results if the process is maintained.  Schedule time to maintain the product, the facility, and the processes (which we will talk about in more detail below).

Revisit this project regularly – “Don’t expect what you don’t inspect”.  Remember the old “Management by Walking Around” advice that was prevalent in the 80’s? (OK, maybe I’m showing my age here.  Look it up if you don’t remember it or if you weren’t born, yet).  This is a good time to dust that one off and use it.  If you aren’t holding everyone in the building accountable for this program, it will not succeed and your efforts will be in vain.

Build an inventory database – Build an inventory of what you have so you can manage it as you go along.  Sometimes, people think of this step first.  They decide they want to gain control of their inventory so they buy an inventory management software package, only to realize that they have no data (or incomplete/unreliable data) to feed into that system.  You have to have standardized and complete item descriptions.  (Is a “GE 3/4HP MOTOR” the same thing as “MOTOR, 3/4HP”?  They won’t come up in the search as the same thing.)  

Schedule routine maintenance – Schedule time to maintain and repair the product, the facility, and the processes (which we will talk about in more detail below).

  • Physical Product – Make a schedule of when you will clean. I’m not just talking about emptying the trash cans, although that is part of it.  I am suggesting that you straighten the shelves once a day, set a schedule for maintaining the cleanliness of the physical inventory.
  • Inspect and Repair – Make a schedule to inspect the tools and the facility for safety and repair needs.
  • Retrofits, Calibration, and Maintenance Program – This step would include a maintenance program for the machines in the facility (including bill of materials), as well as retrofits for lighting, batteries, retagging of inventory, calibration of tools, repainting the facility, etc….     


In the step above (Shine/Sweep), we talked about how you would maintain the work you have done.  One of the steps to achieving this is to set up processes to support your efforts.  In this “Standardize” step, take a look at your processes.  Do they support good work habits?  Are they efficient or are extra steps required?  Is your inventory database standardized or do you continually find parts listed in some way other than the way you thought to look them up (or in multiple places)?  Do you have to go find a pen every time a shipment needs to be signed for?  Does the tape dispenser walk away from the work area two and three times per day?  Do people continually leave a work area to get a tool they need to do the job?   

The challenge here is that people tend to avoid change and embrace that which is familiar.  People will naturally fall back into the old, more familiar processes.  The goal in this step is to design and establish new processes that are efficient and that make it easier to do the “right thing” than it is to do the “wrong thing” and then reinforce them.   

Utilize reminders

  • Labels – Label everything!  This makes things easier to find and easier to put back.  Label tools, pipes, electrical wires, and chords.  Label what machine that critical spare part goes to (and include the exploded drawing or page number in manual if you can).   Label drawers and cabinets (on the outside – I know – seems obvious, but…) so you don’t have to open them all to find what you are looking for.   Make sure that you are using labels that will stand up to whatever your facility is going to put them through (Hot? Cold? Fork lifts? Water? Floor cleaner?).
  • Outline – Outline product and tools.  As I mentioned in the previous blog, nothing screams “put that tool back here” better than outlining the product that goes there.  Outline areas and boundaries for areas (ex: outline area for saw blades or outline an area on the floor where large bulk pallet items like toilet paper is to be stored). Outline areas for processes, such as a staging area for shipping, etc…
  • Signs/Banners – People don’t always appreciate being reminded to do something, but if they aren’t reminded, they may not successfully make the change from the old to the new processes that are required in this process.  Reminders in a form that is not a human being standing there telling them what to do are recommended.  You’ve probably seen the sign many companies use, usually in their break room that says, “Your mother doesn’t work here, so clean up after yourself”.   In this same vein, signs can be used to reinforce your message in a humorous or positive way.  Your posters can include cartoons, pictures, or only words, whatever it takes to get the message across.
    • Use humor – People always remember the message better when you use humor.  Sometimes it may seem hokey, but that is OK if it drives the behavior we are looking for. 
    • Keep it positive – State things in a positive way.  Assume that people are capable and willing to make the right choices and state it from that vantage point.  (“Where does this go?” versus “This doesn’t go here!”)
    • Contest or Incentive – Offer an incentive for everyone who produces a sign to use somewhere in the facility (Leave 1 hour early or free pizza for lunch, etc…).  You could even have a prize for one or two of the favorites, but use all of them (if inappropriate, have them revise it).  Getting them involved in the implementation will drive better compliance and ownership of the process.   Here are a couple of ideas to get them started:
      • Where does this go? Person holds up a tool (or a toilet?) and has an outline of the tool on the wall behind him?
      • Guy holds up a toaster in a workroom and says, “Why is this toaster in my toolbox?”
      • Picture of a guy up to his neck in unorganized chaos of a workroom yelling, “Mommy!”
      • Make a cartoon-
        • first frame worker puts tool down in wrong place
        • second frame – worker tiptoes away
        • third frame – tool starts screaming, “Hey! Come back!  
          Don’t leave me!  I don’t belong here!”

One final thought; don’t underestimate the power of peer pressure. Once you get some people “on board” with the program, they will influence the behaviors of the others.


To sustain is to continue to maintain.  This is not the “flavor of the month”.  It will not go away with time.  We must continue to maintain it after the dust has settled.  We must continue to “hold the line”. 

  • Make parts earn the right to stay.  To stay in your inventory a part MUST turning regularly.  If a part is turning less than 2 times per year, you should consider if it really is an item you need to keep on hand.
  • Make every new part earn its way. Do you need to stock this new item?  How quickly would it be needed?  How quickly could you get it from your local supplier?  Is there a price advantage to buying it in bulk or now?  Is that price advantage enough to cover the expense of carrying it in inventory for any length of time?  When you are adding a new part to your inventory, seriously consider what can/should be removed to make a space for it.            
  • Continue to educate – Talk to the people involved in the process.  Continue to educate   them about the advantages.  Have them provide the input on where tune-ups are needed.  Make it a standing agenda item in weekly/monthly staff meetings.            
  • Change signs and posters – Keep it fresh.  After a sign has been in place for a while, people seem not notice it anymore.  Move signs around.  Make fresh ones as the old ones become tattered.  One of the advantages of having the sign contest/incentive is that you have a collection of signs that can be rotated.               
  • Report progress – Again, getting the people that will be “living” this process involved in its implementation will instill ownership of the program and its results, so share all of this with them.  Set goals and report their success in attaining those goals.  Celebrate the milestones.

So, there it is.  To 5S or Not to 5S?  That is the question.  Are you committed enough to get it implemented in your facility?  If so, it won’t be easy and it won’t happen overnight, but it will be rewarding and it will pay dividends for as long as you remain committed to the program. 

If you have decided that this is right for you, but you need help, remember, PM2 stands ready to assist you.  We are not a company that gives advice and leaves you to get the job done.  We will roll up our sleeves and plow through it with you every step of the way, if you want us to.  If you would like to find out more, please feel free to give us a call at (813) 249-0834.  Or e-mail me at   Visit our website at

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