How to Sustain your 5-S Program

Darren Dolcemascolo

Many organizations make some early 5-S improvements and then slide back into their old ways of doing things. Other organizations continue to maintain their 5-S programs for many years.

What separates a successful 5-S program from one that is headed for failure? An unsuccessful implementation of 5-S was never a complete 5-S implementation. The fifth “S” stands for “sustain;” if implemented completely, a 5-S program will have longevity.

There are three keys to successfully sustaining 5-S: commitment, top management support and performance measurement.

Key No. 1: Commitment.
The first key is to commit to all five S’s. While this may appear to be obvious, I once had a conversation with a well-meaning executive who told me: “We are just going to implement 3-S for now. We aren’t ready for all five.” The fifth S, “shitsuke” in Japanese, actually translates more closely to “commitment” than “sustain.”

According to Tomo Sugiyama (author of The Improvement Book), “shitsuke’ is a typical teaching and attitude toward any undertaking to inspire pride and adherence to the standards established.” If your entire organization is not committed to 5-S, your organization’s 5-S program will be short-lived.

Key No. 2: Top Management Support.
The first and second keys go hand-in-hand. Commitment is not possible without top management’s visible support for the program. All employees must believe that the organization has committed to the program.

One way to encourage top management to get involved on a continuing basis is for them to conduct quarterly 5-S visits in which executives inspect each work area to 5-S conditions and offer advice and support to the employees. Another effective method for demonstrating top management support is for executives to mandate and participate in visible promotion of 5-S. Some ways to promote 5-S include:

  1. Designated 5-S days: Select a day per month or per quarter to emphasize 5-S throughout the plant.

  2. Slogans: Select a 5-S related slogan, post it in public areas throughout the plant, pass out shirts made up with the slogan to successful 5-S teams, etc.

  3. Public announcements: In monthly or quarterly announcements/all-employee meetings, take some time to emphasize the importance of 5-S.

  4. Seminars: Have employees participate in seminars throughout the year. Some of these should be 5-S related.

Key No. 3: Performance Measurement and Reward System.
The third key is to measure 5-S performance in each work area and set up a reward system to reward teams that achieve 5-S success. Organizations that have successful 5-S programs measure their performance through weekly audits using checklists and score sheets.

Results of the audits are posted in public areas. This creates an atmosphere of friendly competition and will help to instill pride in the teams you’ve set up. This measurement and competition should be combined with a reward system; most successful organizations offer monthly or quarterly rewards for their teams in various 5-S categories. The rewards can range from movie tickets to cash bonuses.

These three keys are simple but powerful. Your organization must commit to all five of the five pillars. Top management must show visible support for the program. And, your organization must set up a 5-S performance measurement and reward system.

About the author:
Darren Dolcemascolo is an internationally recognized lecturer, author and consultant. As senior partner and co-founder of EMS Consulting Group, he specializes in productivity and quality improvement through lean manufacturing. Dolcemascolo has written the book Improving the Extended Value Stream: Lean for the Entire Supply Chain, published by Productivity Press in 2006. He has also been published in several manufacturing publications and has spoken at such venues as the Lean Management Solutions Conference, Outsourcing World Summit, Biophex, APICS and ASQ. He has a bachelor of science degree in industrial engineering from Columbia University and an MBA with graduate honors from San Diego State University. To learn more, visit or call 866-559-5598.

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