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Raising the Bar: 5S Implementation

The next kaizen event was a couple of months away, and our focus was still directed toward the struggling engine line and the other processes having difficulty. Because management had not developed a strategic purpose and had not established any way to measure our progress, it was difficult to gauge the financial burden or level of improvement. There was ample room for positive changes, and I felt strongly that the line workers needed a few more things to help them get up to speed. I decided to assemble a small team to start addressing other issues.

On the first day of the first event, the kaizen team had been able to get only so much done, considering that we had been told to start from scratch. However, when we had made the decision to use the time studies, we were able to balance the work content and establish some standard work. Now I wanted to implement 5S in more detail. The kaizen team hadn’t accomplished much beyond some bin labeling and workstation signs. My team consisted of the manufacturing and quality engineers on the line, a total of four people. I placed an order for floor paint, floor tape, labels, bins, and other miscellaneous supplies that would improve the visual effects of the line.

We scheduled the work to be done during a week when the line would be finished by noon on Thursday. After the operators left, the team cleared all the items from the floor. Because the line was entirely on wheels, this was a fast exercise. I highly recommend mobile lines.

The team quickly cleaned the floor in preparation for painting. After the floor dried, we grabbed paint rollers and proceeded to apply the paint. I had ordered a standard color, manufacturing gray. To make the line stand out, we painted the entire area designated for the engine line. The yellow floor tape and other visual markings were easy to see in contrast to the gray floor.

My goal was to finish painting by the end of the afternoon, to allow time for the floor to dry overnight. We would start putting up the visual markings and designations the next day. On Friday, we spent all day placing yellow floor tape to designate anything that went on the floor: totes and bins, parts racks, the path of the carts, garbage cans, and the like. The team labeled everything on the floor with descriptions and quantities (when applicable). The floor designations and labeling took very little time, so we decided to make new labels for the parts bins and reorganize the parts racks. After only one day of work, the line looked very nice and much more organized.

The work performed on Friday did not go unnoticed. On Monday morning, the line operators were the first to acknowledge the improvements. A few production supervisors commented on the appearance and asked when their lines were going to be improved. My manager said that she was happy with the line and hoped it would be sustained.

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