I had a funny experience a while back that illustrates a few lean principles like respect for people and the value of a 3S’ed or 5S’ed workplace. I was spending some time with one of our more experienced production operators. She was very skilled and good-intentioned. I was going about my work and talking with this employee when she shared something I didn’t expect.
“Did you know how dull and beat up our tools are?” she asked me.
“No, I didn’t know that,” I said.
“Oh yeah. You have to search hard sometimes for the good ones. And when you find one you don’t want to lose it. Sometimes I even hide it so I don’t have to struggle with a dull one.”
I was shocked! And I laughed… (I confess). It was just so ironic to me to find out that good employees hide good tools from other employees just so they don’t have to struggle with dull equipment!
This little anecdote teaches us some important things about lean and the value of 3S’ing your workplace:
- A properly 3S’ed workplace will keep your tools in good condition.
There are actually consequences for quality and safety when using dull and tired tools. It may appear to be cost-saving to not invest in proper equipment, but it’s just not worth it when faced with the risks to the customer and the employee.
- A properly 3S’ed workplace dissolves competition for resources.
It was so challenging to find a good tool that this good-natured employee was hiding tools from other employees. This is obviously not “respect for people.” But the system was pitting them against each other.
- Consistent 3S’ing will bring hidden problems to the surface.
How long were the dull tools out there in production? I don’t know. But I do know that when you regularly 3S your workplace you will discover the problems that were previously hidden. This keeps the whole operation flowing nicely without surprises or downtime.
Right now I’m remembering something I learned years ago from the classic First Break All The Rules. The book includes the findings of a 12-question survey that Gallup used to measure employee engagement and identify successful managers. The second question on the list is:
“Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?”
When the answer is “no,” lean has some simple solutions. Learn to 5S or 3S your workplace. Involve everyone, every day. Practice respect for people. The list goes on…
Total employee engagement is the substance of lean culture. If that’s what you’re looking for, you can look no further 😉 .