Lean Six Sigma Improvement and Work Design, Part 13

This is the thirteenth and last post in a series taken from a lesson in Pyzdek Institute Lean Six Sigma Black Belt training. You can find all of the articles in the series by searching this site for the title.


Sustain  is the name of the whole 5S game. You gain nothing by deploying the first 4 S’s, only to let things go back to business as usual in the long run. In fact, you probably create an attitude among workers and supervisors that management isn’t really serious about Lean Six Sigma.

Just why things tend to get worse unless we pay close attention to them is a debatable proposition. There is an analogous concept used in thermodynamics: entropy.  One definition of entropy is applied to human systems, “The inevitable and steady deterioration of a system or society.”[1] In physics entropy is inevitable in closed systems. These are systems where there is no additional input of energy. The same applies to Lean Six Sigma 5S systems: if no additional effort is put into sustaining the improved state, then deterioration is inevitable and steady. You simply have no choice. If you want to sustain the benefits of 5S you must put forth the required effort to do so. Here are some guidelines to help you do so.

  • Provide periodic refresher training on 5S.
  • Schedule the required time to perform 5S on a daily basis.
  • Create a standardized approach to 5S that clearly spells out how 5S will be implemented.
  • Have your Lean Six Sigma process owner acknowledge and accept ownership of 5S.
  • Create programs to recognize 5S efforts and reward compliance with standards.
  • Keep 5S fun! Think of creative ways to keep 5S from becoming drudgery. (5-Minute 5S contests anyone?)

Safety–The Real 1st S

A workplace where 5S is practiced is not only clean and well-organized, it is also safe. Clutter and unnecessary materials and equipment contribute to accidents. People can locate the tools and materials they need without searching among  unneeded objects and moving them out of the way. There are no oil spills where people can slip and fall. Adequate and clearly marked aisles make transportation safer. Marked storage areas which contain only what is needed are less likely to have excess inventory that can fall and injure people.

[1] http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/entropy

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Author: Thomas Pyzdek

Consultant, author, owner of The Pyzdek Institute