Lean 3S is a productivity tool that engages every employee every day in the maintenance of production standards. It is commonly performed by companies practicing “2 Second Lean” in a daily 15 minute period to sort, sweep, and standardize the workplace.
Lean 3S basically achieves two things: 1) it makes work “flow” easily due to thoughtful organization, cleanliness, and standardization, and 2) it makes problems and abnormalities immediately visible during regular working hours.
An Introduction to Lean 3S
Practicing 3S is not difficult but it does require consistent action and dedication. It’s wasteful and even damaging to run 3S like a project. Instead, it must become a part of everyday life in an organization. For another simple overview of 3S, check out this comical and short explanation by Martin Partitions on YouTube.
10 Reasons Why You Need 3S (Comedy)
In simple terms, we need lean 3S because without it life is frustrating! It’s difficult to get anything done when you can’t find what you need, when something is buried under a bunch of junk, or when things are endlessly getting dirty.
Sort, and Get Rid of the Crap!
Sort is very straight-forward: get rid of all the junk that you don’t need to do your work. It gets in the way, hides problems, and jeopardizes quality and efficiency. Use a red tag system if you need to, or consider implementing a “question box” or “junkyard” to aid your ongoing efforts.
Sweep, and Clean Things Up!
The obvious message of sweep is to clean and tidy things up. This serves to promote safety and efficiency in the workplace. But there’s something else about sweep that is equally important: inspecting for problems. One of the major goals of lean 3S is to find problems so that they can be addressed and solved. This only happens when we pay attention to our workplace, ask the question “why,” and focus on improvement.
Standardize, and Make Practices Clear!
Standardization is an underappreciated practice. It is absolutely essential to become lean. People who are just starting off on their lean journey could focus on standardizing practices for months before worrying about trying making things better. The clarity along is critical and brings tons of benefits. If you want to do well with lean, create the habit of standardizing everything. Make it so simple and easy that a child could do it! And then learn to do it rapidly.
A Simplification of Lean 5S
3S is actually a simplified version of 5S. The original 5S method was practiced by Henry Ford and Toyota in the 1900s. It includes all three of the practices of 3S (sort, sweep, standardize) and add an additional two: straighten and sustain. These five practices are summarized in the table below.
Straighten, and Organize Your Stuff!
Straighten is about placing every needed item in the optimal place for work and “flow.” This is why some people call this S “set in order.” You will also hear the saying, “a place for everything, and everything in its place.” When that is the case, work is easy. You can find exactly what you need, when you need it.
Sustain, and Don’t Give Up!
“Sustain” is exactly what you’d think it’d be—it’s about being consistent and not giving up. Don’t treat the disciplines of 5S as a project or once-a-year activity. Even if you do it every day, don’t get lazy and let it decay. You’ve got to keep it up if you’re going to see results that stick in the long term. If you focus on creating a lean culture, you’ll do this. But if you treat 5S only as a tool, you’ll have to work constantly to prevent the organization from backsliding.
Why We Teach Lean 3S
At Lean Smarts we teach lean 3S because it is simpler and compatible with our favorite lean management system: 2 Second Lean. When companies practice 3S in this way, “straighten” is addressed in the daily improvement period and “sustainment” is addressed through the daily meeting.
What matters most is that whichever one you pick—3S or 5S—that you do it well, keep it simple, and are very consistent. Either one can be used with tremendous effect.
You can also view each of these training videos from our YouTube playlist.