“It’s like chrome plating on a rusty, old truck.”

By Ken Scott, Training SpecialistKen Scott

The quote is not verbatim, but it captures the imagery my friend was attempting to create. The metaphor is talking about high-tech production scheduling software that allows you to see the schedule on any smart phone or tablet implemented in a completely disorganized workspace. The information and material flow looks clear and linear, but at the gemba, where the work is done, the actual flow is quite the opposite. MRP, ERP, and Master Schedules can be useful but their success is often undermined when the underlying issue of workplace organization has not been addressed.

Whenever I deliver training on workplace organization, I always start with two brainstorming activities. The first is around the benefits of an organized workspace. It is only a matter of moments before the benefits are voiced; often every single bullet point is covered in the organization’s own words. In the second brainstorm, I ask for the disadvantages of an organized workplace and often I hear crickets.

So why aren’t more people cleaning and organizing their workplaces if the benefits are obvious and the disadvantages are few or non-existent?

As we often say, it is about the process or lack thereof. Nature provides us with a process to create chaos; it is called entropy. Lean provides us with a process to create an organized workplace; it is called 5S.

It starts with SORT which is a collaborative effort to remove all items from the work area that are not needed to do the work (what is needed is defined by those doing the work) and to bring in any items missing that are needed to do the work.

We then SET-IN-ORDER what is needed to do the work based on how the work is done. This step includes assessing where the items are needed (point of use) and how frequently we need them. Those criteria are matched with a concerted effort to make things vertical and visual. Nature also dictates that all horizontal surfaces will collect stuff. By the end of set-in-order, we want a place for everything and everything in its place.

Now it is time for us to SHINE: to deeply clean the work area and the equipment. Through our deep cleaning, we inspect the tools and equipment for signs of degradation or poor conditions that could be early indicators of a future failure.

And now we feel good! Things look good! Time to move on to the next work area because this 5S stuff is awesome!

But what about entropy?

We need to STANDARDIZE simple, visual, and manual processes to ensure we maintain our new current state of order. We need a plan that will communicate when and where to clean. We need replenishment systems that will ensure we always have the consumables we need when we need them. We need a checklist to ensure we are consistently setting things back in order and inspecting the state of our equipment.

So who is winning now; us or entropy?

We can’t be sure until we SUSTAIN the gains by implementing a system of layered audits that will score or measure our efforts toward creating an organized workplace.

So, if you are finding your rusty old truck (a disorganized workplace) has you late for a hot date (or a customer delivery) and you are sick of cleaning the chrome plating before you hit the road (constantly updating the computer for what is actually happening)…

We have a process for that.

Ken Scott
Training Specialist
(231) 995-2212
kscott@nmc.edu

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