What Tools Are You Using - 4Ward Solutions Group - Modular Commercial Building Construction Consulting
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What Tools Are You Using - 4Ward Solutions Group - Modular Commercial Building Construction Consulting


By Ben Hershey, 4Ward Consulting Group, LLC

 I really enjoy local county fairs and local attractions, because they give us an opportunity to see cool things from the past or something related to the area (and our fair has fresh roasted corn!).  Recently at our local fair, the Stanwood Fair, I walked into a building showcasing tools used by lumber mills and loggers in the past.  This picture shows some of the tools that were used back then to provide the lumber or logs for building the structures of the day.  

These days, our mechanical tools are much more sophisticated…and we have even more “tools” in our Lean toolbox. Though we have written about portions of this before, enough cannot be said about the importance of the tools to create a lean culture, especially 5S.

If you learned 5S and used it as a tool in your lumber or component operation, would you be able to spot abnormalities in 30 seconds or less?  Or would you be able to access the “tools” of your operation, including material or equipment, at all times because they had a specific home and they resided there when not in use?  Could you go home at night and know that your operation was productive/efficient because there was little waste slowing down the operation?

These questions are easily answered in a well-executed 5S workplace that focuses on operational excellence.

The Meaning of 5S

More than just an acronym, 5S is a tool we use to talk about the basic building blocks of a lean operation/culture.  Each of the words start with the letter S: sort, set in order, shine, standardize, and sustain.  In many organizations, we also refer to 5S+S, where we tout safety as the sixth “S”.  But in the right culture, S-Safety is an output of the first five.

I realize we have heard about lean several times over the past few years, but refreshers and reinforcement of the principals is really important.  One key to making sure you have a successful program is that you have “buy in” from your team.  That buy in must be from the owner through the newly hired.  Also essential is taking “before” photos, so that, when you continue to improve an area using 5S, the team and the owner of that area can see the importance of why we use 5S and share in the success.

The Keys to 5S

First Comes ‘Sort’

The goal of the sort procedure is to keep what is needed in the targeted area and remove what is not. Do you need 16 wrenches? Is this item ever used? If so, how frequently? Visibly red tag items that aren’t needed or are in the wrong place. Dispose of the unneeded items and move the others to a holding area.

 Now ‘Set in Order’

Once the unnecessary has been removed, it becomes time to find a place for the necessary. Determine the best locations, keeping in mind point of use and frequency of use, ease of access and return, and safety. Eliminate wasted movement, reaching, effort.  Critical for success is that process owners are mandatory in location selection.   I also encourage the use of visual cues – shadow boards are one example – that clearly highlight the difference between a normal and abnormal condition.

Time to ‘Shine’

Clean the target area and everything in it, not simply for the sake of housekeeping but to create a new standard.  Make the target area easy to keep clean by providing the right tools and supplies and addressing any safety concerns.  Once established, this daily cleaning, done by every shift, serves as an inspection process as well.  By keeping the area clean, it also gives you the opportunity to check if everything is where it should be and if anything needs repair or replacement.

‘Standardize’ with Rules

As part of your 5S process, create the rules to maintain the first three S’s in 5S.  Create red-tag procedures, as well as rules around locations, numbers and positions of items/tools/equipment, and check-lists of cleaning for each shift and procedures.  Visual management is key, so make the procedures visual and the standards easy to understand.  These standards help ensure that culturally you move from a “fix it” mode to a “control it” mode by empowering employees to manage and control their area.

 ‘Sustain’ Those Gains

The best way to make this happen is to stick to the rules without exception.  Daily coaching and practice help develop these new habits.  Perform 5S audits weekly and praise/recognize where standards are being met.  That recognition is really important, because our employees want to hear that they are meeting or exceeding the standards or goals, and they will continue to meet those expectations because of that positive reinforcement.

Old tools are really cool to look at, but, as the saying goes, out with the old and in with the new.  Put these 5S tools into your work belt and watch the transformation in your operation.  4Ward Consulting Group has had the honor of working with companies throughout our industry, helping them implement Lean programs including 5S.  Through coaching, strategizing, and implementation, our team is here to assist you in your lean journey.

 Special Note:

Just a few weeks remain before this year’s BCMC Show in Columbus, OH on October 22-25.  There is still time to register and attend, so you can come back with some tools you can use as we close out 2019 and move into 2020.  And while you are there, drop by and say hello to our team who will be at the show.

 Ben Hershey is CEO of the 4Ward Consulting Group, LLC team.  When the industry needs an actual expert, they turn to 4Ward Consulting Group team with more than 100 years of experience.  4Ward Consulting Group isthe leading provider of Management and Manufacturing Consulting to the Structural Component and Lumber Industry. A Past President of SBCA, Ben has owned and managed several manufacturing and distribution companies and is Six Sigma Black Belt Certified. Ben has provided consulting to hundreds of Component Manufacturers, Lumber Dealers, and Millwork Operations in the past seven years.  You can reach Ben at ben@4WardConsult.com or 623-512-6770.

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