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What is 5S?
A proven method in motivating workers to work efficiently on the shop floor, 5S could be more effective if its precepts are first set-up in the board room - with managers on-board. This is important, because most of the causes of project failures are management related. For instance, poor planning, defective designs, and inadequate organizational structure are among the critical factors which only the bosses can address, for they are the ones who have the final say.
On the other hand, like workers, managers have also toolboxes where basic management devices are handy. One of these recommended devices is 5S for Managers, a shape up tool. Derived from established management practices, 5S for Managers refreshes administrators of the simple, yet important, schemes which can aid in making projects successful.
5S for Managers could be transformed into a vital technique once imbibed and implemented in the different work areas. Starting with letter S, five Japanese terms are translated to English. The first two in the list of 5 are Seiri-Sort, and Seiton-Systematize.
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Overlapping policies, inconsistent strategies and ambiguous objectives often result in recurring process errors, defective designs, low
morale of workers, and customer dissatisfaction. To arrest these problems, a purposeful planning activity is needed to review and sort out inconsistencies, starting from the objectives down to the most minor policies.
Seri, meaning sort, is to segregate necessary from unnecessary policies, goals and objectives and strategies, prioritizing them according to importance, appropriateness and impact to business sustainability. Inconsistent ones are set aside but not immediately rejected, for they could later be reviewed for possible application.
However, if they are detrimental to organization's interest, they should be discarded outright. Sorting can not be undertaken without factual basis. Data and information need to be generated, in and out of the organization. Workers performance, customer feedback, and market and environment assessments are valuable sources of inputs for planning. Serving as a basis for the sorting process, pieces of information are sifted from the heap of data, from which cogent objectives, relevant strategies, and logical policies are derived. Sorting calls for strategic quality planning.
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If, to workers, systematize means to place and arrange tools and implements for easy access, to managers it means a lot more. It means to realize goals on time, with the best quality and at competitive cost. A system to achieve this is indispensable for business survival.
A wide gamut of management treatise has been written on achieving goals, meeting targets and delivery systems. Their details are not in the purview of this article. However, there are four simple building blocks from Total Quality Management (TQM) principles which could guide managers to come up with meaningful approaches to meet the company's bottom lines. These building blocks are motivation, technology, customer focus, and quality first.
In subsequent articles, we will discuss the remaining three terms, Seiso-Sweep, Seiketsu-Standardize and Shitsuke-Self-discipline.
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Kondo, Yoshio., ed. Human Motivation, by Yoshio Kondo, Akikazu Kako, Junai Saito, Shozo Sakamoto, Shigeki Hayashi, Takeo Haruyama, Tai Michiura, Michiro Munechika. Japan: 3A Corporation, 1993