There is no shortage of resources on lean manufacturing strategies, also known as Kaizen, or Continuous Improvement. These can be overwhelming to sift through and choose from, especially for smaller businesses. Small to medium sized manufacturers have different needs and resources than large ones. Therefore, these companies can have a difficult time deciphering where to even start to implement a lean model.
The easiest place to begin and build a foundation is the 5Cs.
The 5 Cs are the Western version of 5S. They are the same steps, but they’re explained a little differently, which can make better sense to some. It is a great place to start because it touches on the most immediate wastes you can identify and remove. Once you’ve implemented 5Cs, you’re better positioned for a more complex system of Continuous Improvement. Additionally, when 5Cs become a regular habit, you’re always practicing Kaizen.
The 5Cs are:
- Clean & Check
- Consensus or Custom & Practice
When a work area is cluttered, it is difficult to find the tools you need. It’s also easy to misplace or break something. Unorganized work areas can create major wastes of time, and they can also be safety hazards. So your very first step to Continuous Improvement is to clear every area. Remove garbage, put away tools that have been left out. Remove from sight anything that doesn’t need to be out in the open. Make sure all the tools that should be present are.
When you find items that are too big to move, mark them with a red tag. If you find items you don’t know what to do with, set them aside in one place. At the end, work as a group to decide where things go or if they need to be moved into storage.
Once the area has been cleared and you know what tools need to be in the work area, it’s time to label and organize. Be thoughtful about where and how you arrange things. Items used often should be placed close to where they are used and be easy to access. Items only used periodically can be placed further away. Heavy items should be placed at a level that is easy to retrieve and put back.
You also want to label everything clearly. Remember: this step is about making it easy for absolutely anyone to enter that work station and quickly find what he or she needs as well as provide enough space to do any work that needs to be carried out there.
These first two steps can take up some time, and they should (unless your employees are amazing at keeping things tidy and organized.) Make the effort to start fresh with your work spaces so that they contribute to a productive workflow. When you’re ready, move onto part 2 to complete the 5C process.
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