In many organizations, complaints can be heard that there are too many programs and initiatives targeting too many objectives. These complaints may come from staff or management; many of them may even be valid. The response to this situation, however, is often misguided and potentially dangerous.
To streamline efforts and improve performance – ostensibly, at least – managers and executives may discontinue or merge programs. Done carelessly, consolidation can be de facto termination. A particularly egregious example of this practice is to combine safety and 5S.
Many organizations have combined safety and 5S, creating a “6S” program. Doing so signals a critical disconnect between management and frontline employees or, worse, a disregard for frontline employees.
Using “6S” in this manner implies that each “S” is of equal stature. They are not. Adding insult to injury (pun intended), safety is often added at the end of the list! 5S can contribute to safety by eliminating hazards, but remains subservient to safety. Beginning with the same letter is not sufficient justification for consolidating efforts, ideas, or things. Imagine Alaska and Alabama as one state!
Use of “6S” can also be confused with a Six Sigma quality initiative. At times, “6S” is substituted for “6σ” when the “σ” character is unavailable or “6Sig” is simply too long.
Safety is the greatest responsibility of any organization. Employees, customers, and partners rely on management to maintain safety as the highest priority. To do this, it must stand alone from – no, stand above – all other initiatives, programs, and objectives.
The ubiquity of 5S training material renders a detailed presentation here unnecessary. The following is the briefest of introductions for those unfamiliar with the 5S “process” and a refresher for those with previous exposure.
The first attempt at 5S will be a sequential process, following the steps in the order described below. Subsequent improvement efforts may include some iteration, but will not necessarily return to “step 1” for each change. Without further ado:
For additional guidance or assistance with safety, 5S, or other Operations challenges, feel free to leave a comment, contact JayWink Solutions, or schedule an appointment.
Jody W. Phelps, MSc, PMP®, MBA
JayWink Solutions, LLC
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