Archive for October, 2009

SHINE – the Third “S” of the 5 S System

October 29, 2009 by John

Following Sort and Straighten in the Toyota Production System 5 S System is Shine.  Shine is going through and cleaning up the work area.  At the end of the day each person needs to clean up their workstation, sweep the floors, clean off their desk, and return tools to their proper place.  This should be incorporated into every day routines.

When you take the time to “shine”, you are preparing for the future. Today’s workplace is full 0f inconsistencies and infractions.  There needs to be order and organization desperately.   Without the shine chaos starts to take control. 

So when you use it be sure to clean it by puting it back away every day so as to make everybody’s everyday tasks easier to complete.  That will make the world turn smoother than it did before.

To catch up on the series, here are links to the other posts:

Overview of the 5 S System

Sort – the First “S” of the 5 S System

Straighten – the Second “S” of the 5 S System

Standardize- the Fourth “S” of the 5 S System

Sustain – the Fifth “S” of the 5 S System

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STRAIGHTEN – The Second “S” of the 5 S System

October 26, 2009 by Machel

The first principal of the 5S system, Sort, is where you take and identify those items that are needed for you to accomplish your work.  Those necessary items are what we will now focus on.  Straighten, or Setting in Order, is the second principal of the 5S system.  In order for you to have an efficient work place, you need to have the correct tools and supplies close at hand and you need to be able to quickly find them.  Everything must have its place, and be in its place.

Looking at the desks in our building, mine has to be the most disorganized.  When I am done with a book or an item it is pushed out of they way rather than placed back where it belongs.  It’s a good thing the engineers are moved around so my desk gets cleaned up once in a while.  I’m forced into compliance, although I’m no where near as bad as someone who worked here several years ago.  On the other hand, my garage at home…  let’s just say that sometimes it takes more time to find the tools that I need for a project than it does to complete the project.  This principal of 5S is all about making your work area more efficient.  Setting up work stations or areas for work and having the correct tools and supplies in those areas are keys to becoming more efficient in the tasks that you do.

In the area that you have to work set aside areas for the storage of supplies and tools.  Keep the tools that you need more often closer to hand than those that you use less frequently.  Set aside a place for them and label it.  Shadow boards or cut outs in foam in your tool box are good examples of this.  Doing this allows you to quickly find the tool that you need.  It also allows you to know at a glance if you are missing any tools needed for the job at hand.  Totes or bins can be labeled and placed in the areas that are needed.  If you are working on an assembly line only have the tools and supplies that you need in your area.  Arrange them in a fashion that facilitates the work flow.  Minimize the clutter. Put tools in their designated place after they are used.  Keep a clean and organized work area.

By organizing and cleaning your area, you can maximize your efficiency and increase your work flow.   Greater efficiency and more work done makes for happy people.  For me this means more time to do an extra item on the honey-do list at home.  And this does make the Boss happy.

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SORT – The first “S” of the 5 S System

October 19, 2009 by Bob

In using the Toyota Production System to improve your organization you need to integrate the 5 S processes from your desk to the production floor. The first “S” is to sort out what is and is not needed to do the required work in the work area.

Sorting the things you need to do your job on your desk, in receiving, in the production area, on the assembly floor, and any work area helps you work more efficiently and less prone to misplaced parts and tools. What do you sort? What do you need to do the job or task including tools, parts, and paperwork? If you don’t need it to do your job, it shouldn’t be in your workspace. Not only do you need to sort out what you need, but evaluating the proper quantities of each is also very important. One way to determine what you should have at your workspace is to use the 24-48 hour rule. If you are not going to need it in the next 24-48 hours, it doesn’t need to be in your workspace.

Here at Setpoint, we sort just about everything that comes in the doors, including our engineers. When parts are received a label is attached and the part is placed in a subassembly tote and the tote is placed on the projects rack. When there are enough parts for assembly to begin, the rack is moved to a specific assembly area designated to that project. The assemblers can go grab a tote and take it to their work area to begin assembly. When the assembler needs screws, wire, air hose, or a tool he can go to that rack or cabinet where everything is sorted by type and size. He takes only what he needs and continues working. When he reaches a stopping point or completes the assembly, everything is placed back in the tote and back on the rack. He then grabs the next subassembly tote and begins the build process again. At the end of the day everything is put back in its place, including totes, tools, and paperwork so it is ready to go the next day.

This sorting process has allowed us to be very efficient at building our projects. Any one assembler can go to any project and determine what can and needs to be worked on. We know where to find any tool, wire, hose, or fastener without searching the shop floor. I have worked at other companies where this sorting was “sort of” used (pun intended), and it makes for a long day when you are searching for the part or tool you need because it was not returned to its sorted place.

As I mentioned before, not only do we sort the products coming in our door, but we sort our engineers as well. Depending on our current projects, our engineers get sorted into different teams to utilize their talents and experiences. Yes, this means moving our computers and our stuff from one area to another. I have been sorted at least five times in just over three years. Sometimes this can be a pain, but this sorting helps the team’s communication and makes the design process much more efficient. It also gives us a chance to sort out the accumulation of stuff from our workstation and place it in the proper place–the garbage.

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An Interpretation from an engineer’s perspective

October 12, 2009 by MarkM

of “The Back of the Napkin” by Dan Roam


I am only one member in a mechanical design team of seven engineers, together we are neck deep in machine design and mechanical problem solving.  I started reading this book with hopes of picking up good ideas to apply in a group setting when we are at the whiteboard solving design issues. I have found the book to be somewhat interesting, but not enough to press my colleagues to read it.  The book has some good ideas in it, such as the SQVID method of imagining.  In summary, the SQVID method gives you five questions to ask and mentally process before drawing a picture.  These five questions are:

  • Simple or Elaborate?
  • Quality or Quantity?
  • Vision vs. Execution (do you want to depict where you’re going or how to get there?)
  • Individual attributes vs. Comparison?
  • Delta (change) or Status Quo?  (In Dan’s words: “The way things are versus the way they could be.”)

Dan is not simply suggesting “a few good ideas” in The Back of the Napkin. He has created a text book to guide you into learning a powerful and disciplined approach to visual problem solving that works well for Dan. Trying these ideas once isn’t difficult.  To implement these into your person, make them habit, and integrate them into your mental framework, and restructure your ability to solve problems may take years of self discipline. For example, the <6><6> rule: “For every one of the six ways of seeing, there is one corresponding way of showing. For each one of these six ways of showing, there is a single visual framework that serves as a starting point.” Email me when you’ve managed to get a good grip on that one.  Next, consider Dan’s Four Cardinal Rules for Better Looking:

  1. Collect everything you can
  2. Lay it all out where you can look at it
  3. Establish fundamental coordinates
  4. practice visual triage

These four things make perfect sense, but memorizing them in one day is not enough.  Carrying around index cards with notes to remind you how to do it is impractical.  The challenge of rebuilding your mental stairways to solve problems, to restructure your thought process and become fluid at this can be the challenge of a lifetime. The truth is, you probably already do these four things and just don’t realize it because it happens so fast.  But Dan did an excellent job of capturing this process on paper where you can read the steps and do a self evaluation.

Many times as I have pondered Dan’s ideas, the recurring message I get is – in summary: “You don’t think very efficiently, try my way, it’s better.”  If you consider yourself an efficient thinker, this book will make you reconsider because Dan illustrates how his methods can be applied universally.  The book is not compelling to the merely curious, there is nothing ground-breaking for the visual thinker, and the ideas are not easily accessible in many ways to the analytical thinker.  For example, the Bird Dog Drill on page 75.  If any analytical person makes it to page 75 of Dan’s book, they will find this drill to be a tall challenge because it’s an exercise in endurance and continuity of visual thinking.  That being said, I am about 75% through the book and still not sure if I have already passed the “meat & potatoes” of Dan Roams’ core message.  If I did . . . what was it? 

It’s almost like Dan is telling me: “This is so easy, if you could just be cleverer by using a bit of visual ingenuity, you could draw a picture and this complex problem would suddenly become clear.” Or “Why are you making this problem so difficult, just draw an efficient, well conceived, simple yet calculated, and well diagrammed picture.”  . . .  My thoughts exactly, “do what?”

To be honest, I don’t know if I will finish it anytime soon.  Not that the book isn’t good, it’s just not groundbreaking and easily applied. But it’s interesting if you are a visual thinker.  In reading this book I feel like I am being told that to be a good problem solver I must remove my old problem solving tool belt and strap on a new one that only has a single marker in it with instructions that simply say, “Think differently, and draw more efficiently.”

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Overview of the 5 S System

October 8, 2009 by Kara

As a part of the Toyota Production System, Toyota developed a system to analyze an organization’s business and manufacturing processes and remove all non value added event or processes that are present.  There are five steps and the Japanese terms all start with S – Seiri, Seiton, Seiso, Seiketsu & Shitsuke.  Translating the terms into English keeping with the “S” theme, the 5 S’s become Sort, Straighten, Shine, Standardize and Sustain.  This process can be implemented in many organizations, whether manufacturing or service oriented the 5 S process works.

Sort is going through the items on your desk, on your website, on your production floor, in your shop, wherever you are, and pulling out those things that are duplicates, not used or not important.  If you haven’t used it in a year, you probably don’t need it.

Straighten is putting the things that you do need in order at a work station. The goal is being efficient so your work flow is smooth.  Are your tools easy to reach when you’re working on a project, do they have a place marked for them to be stored?

Shine is going through and cleaning up the work area.  At the end of the day clean up your work station, sweep the floors, and return tools (pens, documents, power tools) to their proper place.  This should be incorporated into every day routines.

Standardize is having everyone in the company follow the same processes and procedures.  When implementing the changes from sorting, straightening, and shining, these changes need to be accepted and followed by all employees to gain the most benefit.  It can also be using the same brand of tool so that they can be interchangeable and easily replaced as they wear out.

Sustain is the last step, what good is all the hard work you’ve done if two weeks later you go back to an unsorted work station.  Another part of sustaining is reviewing the changes you have made to ensure they are still working and are actually providing you a benefit in efficiencies, quality and cost of your operations.

The 5 S’s are a process that can be utilized over and over again.  It can be used at a workstation in a manufacturing company as easily as it can be at a restaurant or engineering company.  Here at Setpoint, not only do our shop guys go through the 5 S process, but the engineers and the management team does as well.

In the following weeks we will take an in-depth look at each of the five steps.  We have also filmed two videos focusing on the 5 S’s, one looking at a production facilities uses with their machinery and the other focuses on a shop environment where they continually build different products and ship them out.

Here is the series:

Sort – the First “S” of the 5 S System

Straighten – the Second “S” of the 5 S System

Shine – the Third “S” of the 5 S System

Standardize- The Fourth “S” of the 5 S System

Sustain – The Fifth “S” of the 5 S System

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Review of 4-Day Work Week

October 1, 2009 by Machel

 It has been just over one year since we converted from a 5-day work week, to a 4-day work week.  My job was to analyze whether the 4-day work week brought more money to our bottom line.

 Here is what I discovered.  Just by calculating the change in percent direct labor, there was about a 1% increase of direct hours.  This 1% increase went straight to the bottom line.  There was no increase in costs, such as overtime and any additional overhead, by converting to a 4-day work week.  Also, the one thing you can’t measure, employee moral, increased as well.  

 Our employees use that day to make personal appointments, which means missing less work, plan 3-day vacations, and spend more time with their families.  When asked if we wanted to switch back, the answer was a resounding “NO!!”

 Overall, I feel this has been a great decision.  There have not been any negative comments from our customers or our employees.

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