CI 101, CI Tools

What are the three pillars of Kaizen?

Kaizen or continuous improvement is the daily practice of creating small changes using low-cost common-sense solutions.  Kaizen’s pillars or major activities are 5S, standardization, and waste elimination.

Where there is no standard, there can be no improvement.  For these reasons, standards are the basis for both maintenance and improvement

Misaaki Imai

Housekeeping and 5S are basic activities for any continuous improvement effort.  Employees acquire self-discipline by practicing 5S daily.  Without discipline, it is impossible to sustain a continuous improvement culture.  The 5S purpose is to create a visual workplace.  The objective is to make problems visible, which is quite uncomfortable.  It is normal to try to hide problems to avoid undesired questions from the boss or dealing with them.  5S and visual management make the out-of-standard situation easy to recognize, and employees can easily correct it.

When we fail to achieve the expected results, it is because the process fails.  Many times, it fails because there is no standard.  Each individual has a way to do things.  Standard work is the safest, highest quality, and most efficient way to execute a particular task.  Standardization is the practice of setting, communicating, following, and improving standards and standard work.  The best way to achieve consistent results and minimize mistakes is to follow the standard work.  

To improve the results, we have to improve the process.  But we need to have standards in place before we try to improve it.  That is why standardization is one of the earlier steps on the lean journey.  Visual management is a way to standardize, it helps to recognize defects, inventory, waiting times, and other types of waste.  Waste elimination is a cost-effective way to improve processes and reduce operating costs.

The first steps on the lean journey are to stabilize the process, create standards, and visual management.  Process stabilization is achieved by practicing 5S and waste identification.  Standards produce a clear image of the desired condition.  You cannot fix what you don’t see. By making conditions out of standard visible, 5S, standards, and waste elimination are the pillars of kaizen or continuous improvement.

Home

How organized is your wardrobe or closet? Is it a good place for 5S?

Every morning you stand in front of the closet looking at the clothes, wondering what to wear.  Probably, you have a couple of suits that you rotated every week.  You are doing that not because you intend to have a uniform or be practical, but because the closet is cluttered, and you cannot reach some areas.  It is possible that you have clothes that you have not seen in years.  

All the house closets are perfect targets for 5S, but this time I will focus on the bedroom closet.  Follow the five steps for cleaning and organization, one at the time.  The best way to see everything you have is to empty the closet.  If you are using more than one, place all items in the same place to start sorting.  When you finished sorting, decide what is the best location but do not put anything back until you clean the area.  This time is going to be the best moment ever to vacuum and clean the entire closet.  Find below a couple of tips for each step.

Sort

Sorting through the closet items should be an easy task.  Look out for these things that you can get rid of without hesitation. 

  1. Old clothing, shoes, and accessories that you never wear, either because you don’t like them anymore or do not fit.
  2. Mismatched socks
  3. Clothing that is either in bad shape, broken or stained.
  4. Eyeglasses with old prescriptions. 
  5. Old towels and bedding

You can do the following with the discarded items.

  • If the clothing is in good condition, donate it.  
  • Donate old eyeglasses.
  • Fix or have someone fixing for you those items with missing buttons, broken zipper, of need a little adjustment job.
  • If you have dogs, you can use towels and other linen for them.  You can also use some and donate the extras to your local shelter.

Set in Order

  • You need to be able to see what you have without opening drawers or boxes.  Use open shelves and boxes when need it. 
  • Organize hangers to maximize the use of vertical space.  For example,  you can have blouses and shirts on top hanging space and below it another for skirts and pants.
  • Use drawer organizers and dedicate each drawer to one item type, for example, socks.
  • Divide your items by use or season, work clothes vs. home, summer vs. winter, and others.
  • If you have one available, you can designate one closet or space for bulky winter items.
  • Use shoe racks whenever possible, avoid using shoe boxes unless they are clear.  

Shine

  • Clean all shelves and hanging systems.  
  • You can paint the insides of the closet now.
  • Look for missing knobs, broken parts, loose screws, and other things.  Repair what you can and replace what you need.

Standardize

  • You can use temporary labels to identify what goes where, at least until you get used to it.  Unless you do your laundry, you need to ensure that everybody sees, understands, and does the same.  

Sustain

  • You don’t need to wait until spring to clean your closet or wardrobe.  Put in a calendar to check your closet every other month or so.
  • As soon as you grab something that does not fit anymore, decide what to do with it.  If you do not want to get rid of things that fast, designate a small area to put those items and check them as part of your closet review per calendar.

To clean and keep the house clean is everybody’s responsibility.  You can make 5S a family activity, teach your kids how to do it, and have them check on their closets the same day you do.  Doing this regularly, you will avoid planning how or where to build additional closet space for your clothes. 

Home

How much you use your kitchen? Is it organized, or need some 5S?

Years ago, my grandma was the queen of the kitchen.  She reigned supreme on that space, and nobody dares to interrupt her while she was on the zone.  I know this situation was similar for many families.  Over time, these changes and now families gathered around the kitchen to participate in food preparation and cooking.  

Even children participate, mixing and preparing things.  During friends and family meetings, everybody is in the kitchen while the meal is being prepared.  For many, this is the place to plan parties and other family activities. The kitchen is then the heart and soul of the house.

With everything happening there, it is easy to find some clutter.  That is also the reason to keep it clean and organized at all times.  Remember the 5S?  The five steps cleaning and organization program is effective in the kitchen also.  You can read about the method and ideas for 5S in the house, in either one of these previous posts.  What is 5S? How can I keep my pets stuff organized? How can you organize your garage? or How can I organize my books?  Either one of those articles will help you to understand the 5S process.  

Plan your Kitchen 5S.  You have no idea how much stuff you have stored on those cabinets and drawers until you empty them.  Yes, you will have to empty every one of them and also the pantry, fridge, and freezer.  Engage the family in this activity.  If everybody participates, chances are, they will also help to keep it organized!

  • Designate areas to place items to keep, move out, and trash.
  • Think ahead of time how you want to organize the kitchen.  Items that you use more frequently should go closer to the area where you are going to use them.  For example, spices where you prepare the food and dishes, glassware, and silverware close to the dishwasher.
  • Have readily available the cleaning utensils and detergents you are going to use.
  • Go one cabinet at a time, including the drawers.
  • After the cabinets, take care of the pantry.
  • Check the fridge and freezer.
  • If you have a small desk or office area, include it as part of the project.

The following are things that you should be looking for while sorting. 

  • Things that we collect thinking that we can use them later, but never use.
    • Plastic silverware and condiment packets from take-out orders.
    • Utensils and kitchen tools from which you have double, or triple.
    • Small appliances like waffle maker or rice cooker.
    • Take-out menus
  • Expired items
    • Spices lose flavor over time, while flour and sugar do not perform as well as fresh ingredients.
    • Expired coupons, old shoppers
    • Medicines
  • Broken or damaged things
    • Warped food storage containers
    • Mismatched containers and lids
    • Old towels
  • Items that do not belong to the kitchen
    • Old bills and receipts, last year calendar
    • Power cords with no equipment, old cell phones, and TV remote controls
    • Greetings cards, crafting supplies
    • The user manual or warranty papers for appliances that you don’t have any more or are way beyond warranty

It will take quite some time to finish all this, but in the end, your kitchen will be ready for the next party.  Enjoy! 

CI 101

Are you sure you have visual controls? Do you know the difference between visual control and a display?

Often people confuse visual controls with visual displays. A visual control calls for action while a display exhibits information.  5S, the five steps for cleaning and organization provides the basis to build a visual workplace.  There are four different stages or types of visual management, display, calls for attention, organize behavior and defects prevention.  Only the last three are considered visual controls, they show the standard and the actual performance.

The basic stage of visual management display, it only exhibits or tells information.  Level 1 of this stage, gives people information that you want or need them to know.  For example, headcount, open positions, visitor schedules, and safety trends.  The second level shares standards at the site.  Work standards remind the employee of the right way to do the job, but they do not tell what to do if something is out of standard.  

The second stage, calls for attention, has levels 3 and 4.  In level 3, you start building standards into the workplace.  The difference is that now, a signal points out when something is out of standard.  At this step, you start using, for example, status boards with metrics posted each hour, heat sensor stickers, gauge labels, and oil level indicators.  

Level 3 sets the baseline for the next level where metrics are in real-time, and alarms or strobe lights go off when the actual performance is different than standard.  At level 4, the visual warns about abnormalities it speaks to you.   

The third stage, organize behavior, is level 5.  When something happens, it calls your attention and also guides your behavior.  In other words, it prevents defects from happening because you know what to do when you receive the warning.

The ultimate goal of every visual management system, prevent mistakes, is level 6.  At this stage, you and your team implement simple, low-cost devices that prevent problems from happening or stops the workflow when defects occur to prevent more.  Error-proof devices have shapes, guides, or sensors that prevent the person from inserting them in the wrong direction or shut down the device to avoid injuries.  

Many companies never moved from the first stage, and wrongfully think that they have visual controls.  To avoid that mistake, start with 5S and keep improving, one step at a time to reach the ultimate goal, mistake-proof controls.  In my next publication, I will show you examples of each stage of visual management.

Electronic / Virtual, Office

Is managing your email inbox driving you crazy?

Manage your emails effectively

Do you know that the average office worker spends 13 hours per week on emails alone? A typical business professional sends and receives 122 emails daily. With those numbers, there is no doubt why you feel like managing your inbox is all you do.

To avoid going crazy for your emails, apply housekeeping and organization to your inbox.

Like every time you want to use 5S, start sorting out the messages that you don’t need. Browse your email in the lookout for promotions and subscriptions. Sometimes you subscribe to a digital newsletter or give away your email address to obtain some information. You are not interested in keeping the subscription anymore but never unsubscribe from it. Go ahead and unsubscribe now, do not touch that email more than once! Do the same thing with promotions that you don’t want to receive anymore. Identify spam emails and put them on the spam folder immediately.

While you browse for emails, make a list of those that you receive periodically and need to keep. Think about customers, suppliers, invoices, and your team. To set in the order, you have to prioritize and categorize your messages. Create categories like my team, finances, insurance, customers, and suppliers. You do not have to go through all your emails, but make sure you include your most frequent contacts.

To shine or clean your inbox archive or delete emails as you go. Make a routine to read your emails during certain times of the day. Reading emails every five minutes is a productivity killer. I read emails first thing in the morning as part of my routine to create the agenda for the day. Check again before lunchtime, and then before going home. Make sure your key people know that if they need your attention, they should text or call you.

Now is time to standardize. Use the contact list you build to create and assign categories to your contacts. With Outlook and Gmail, you can create color-coded categories or filters based on certain criteria. Also, you can assign priorities. For example, invoices have high priority, but digital newspapers are a low priority. Change your email settings, so incoming emails go straight to the appropriate folder or have the right label.

To ensure your inbox is under control, create rules to sustain the tidy state. Daily, as you check your emails, decide what you need to do with the information received. Create tasks or events using the message and then archive or delete. Establish a frequency to revise your emails looking for contacts that need to be categorized or are not relevant anymore. 

Your inbox does not have to drive you crazy. Stop the insanity and 5S your inbox!

CI Tools

What is Visual Control?

Road traffic safety is an example of visual controls

The ultimate goal of 5S is to create a visual workplace. Visual controls make problems visible, communicate status, and improve performance. They also guide people to stop or prevent abnormalities.

A key component of road traffic safety is the group of lane markings, traffic signs, and signals. Think about a street’s intersection. The traffic light and pedestrian crosswalk are visual controls. As a driver, if you are facing a red line, you know that your right of way has ended, and you stop. A pedestrian uses the pedestrian signals to know when it is safe to cross. In the workplace, you can use visual controls to warn when it is time to buy more office paper or to communicate that help is needed.

Everybody in the work area understands the visual control objectives and knows what to do with the information. They work because when looking at them, everybody understands the same thing and act the same way.

If you use a chart to show orders completed per hour, you should be able to know if there are delays by looking at it. What you see will tell you if there is a reason to hurry up or just relax and keep your pace. Another example is the red tags used in the Red Tag Campaign as part of 5S. These red labels indicate that something was out of place, and call your attention for action.

If you want to create visual controls remember the following:

  • Make the team part of the visual control design process.
  • It must be visible at a distance, choose wisely the font type, color, and size.
  • Avoid cluttered signs and charts, it has to be easy to understand.
  • Use color code and fewer words whenever is possible.
  • Visuals communicate a standard and actual performance.
  • Ensure that the entire team knows what it is, the objective and rules. Even when they participate in the design process, a meeting or training to share those details is important. This will ensure everybody understands the same thing and reacts the same way to the signals.

In future posts, I will talk more about examples. For now, look around and identify visual controls around. Think about how you can apply this tool in your business. Any ideas?

CI 101

What is a system?

A system is a set of principles or procedures working together to achieve a defined goal. Continuous improvement or Lean is a business management system designed to create customer value with fewer resources. Each part of the system has a purpose or objective. Many times only one or two lean principles are implemented, but not the system. Perhaps that is the reason why the expected results are not obtained.

The goal of lean or continuous improvement is to provide the customer with the highest quality, at the lowest cost, in a shorter time. The foundation of the system is stability and standardization. The pillars to achieve that goal are delivery time and quality. The heart is involvement, highly flexible, and motivated team members that are always improving.
Each program or principle connects with one of those components. For example, 5S and standardize work are critical for process stability. Continuous flow is one of the activities to achieve shorter delivery times.

How do we take care of the system’s heart? One of the most important principles of lean is respect. It is important to treat our team members as human beings and not a commodity. We show respect by taking the time to develop their skills and helping them to be successful. Create opportunities to learn using lean tools and encourage them to improve their work. Employee participation in improvement activities is a way to increase engagement. It gives them a chance to win achieving success in their efforts to create simple and safer processes.

Little by little, I will continue to share other activities or tools connected with the goal, foundation, pillars, and heart of the Lean System. Continuous improvement is not a supermarket of tools to pick and choose those you like more. You don’t need to use all the tools available, but you have to support all the system components. What makes Lean good is not the effectiveness of individual tools, but the synergy between them to achieve the goal.

CI Tools

What is the Red Tag Campaign?

I am not talking about the inventory clearance sales, but this red label calls for attention as well. The red tag campaign I refer to is part of the 5S program.

During the first step, use red labels to identify what needs to be removed from the work area. Only items with tags are removed, which prevents needed items from being taken from the workplace.

The red tags contain information that will help further in the 5S steps to identify from where they came and what we can do with them. In general, they contain the date, tagged by, and location. In case of questions, you will know who you can ask.

All items removed from the workplace go to a temporary staging area called the Red tag area. This space should be labeled and the perimeter marked. A critical aspect of the red-tag area is the removal procedure. It includes how long the items can be there, who participate in the decision-making process, and the rules for removal options. Some options for removal are move to the right location, donation, employee sale, trash bin, and recycling.

You can have a permanent area designated for red-tag items. When people find items in their work area that does not belong, they can translate them there. In this case, the area has to be small to avoid clutter.

Part of the Sustain step is to include rules on how often this parking area has to be empty. 5S is part of their daily routine and they know what to do with non-needed items, and where they go. Organize a special Red Tag Campaign every six months or annually to promote and sustain 5S. A clean and organized work area is an efficient work area!

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How can I keep my pets stuff organized?

If you love your pets as I do with mine, then your house is full of their stuff. We have toys, different kinds of treats, health supplements, and flea and tick care. Also, we have grooming supplies, cleaning supplies, travel gear, and many others. How do you keep all that organized?

The best way to organize and keep it that way is by using 5S. 5S stands for the first letter of the methodology steps. The steps are Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain. It is a method used in all types of industries to build a nice work environment. Like many other continuous improvement tools, it is useful at home as well. The result is a clean, uncluttered, safe, and well-organized space.

The first step is Sort, which means that you need to sort all the items between what you need and what you don’t need. Start by taking out all the pets stuff you have around the house. By looking at everything in one place, you will be more effective in your sorting exercise. Check for things like:

  • expired items – medicines, health supplements
  • broken things – brushes, feeders, or scratchers beyond their useful life
  • duplicates – four carriers for one cat is too much, maybe you need only one nail clipper
  • stuff that you don’t use – like a cat carrier where your cat doesn’t fit anymore, or toys that your pet never uses

While sorting things follow this rule when in doubt, take it out. Do not store back anything you haven’t use in one year or more. There are a couple of options for those things, recycling, a donation to a local shelter or a friend, yard sale, or the trash bin.

The second step is Set in order, everything in a place and a place for everything. Find a house for every kind of item. Have toys, medicines, grooming supplies, travel items, and others with the like. Have the items close to where you use them. Check these ideas:

  • You can have by the door the items needed for a walk like a leash, poop bags and a collapsible water bowl.
  • Place a basket with bath supplies on the area where your pets get bathed. Shampoo, conditioner, brush, and towels go there.
  • Have a small cabinet in the same area the litter box is with litter bags and cleaning supplies. It can have a hook on one side to hang the scoop.
  • Keep a basket with toys in the area where they play the most.
  • Depending on how much you have, dedicate one cabinet or closet for the pets stuff.
  • Use bins or baskets to keep items like medicines, treats, health supplements, and grooming supplies separated.
  • Use clear bins so you can see through, no need to open to check what is inside.
  • Separate the items for pet type also. Color-coded lids are the best, let’s say, blue for dogs and red for cats.
  • Use a hanging wall organizer to keep the pet records in one place. 

The next step is shine or clean. Get those carriers, pet towels, and other items clean before storing them again.

In the fourth step Standardization, is about creating procedures and visuals. This step is absolutely necessary for the office or business. It is about creating written procedures that define who is responsible for what, when, and how. If you decided to use labels or color-coded bins, this is when you create your system. If you want to make sure everybody cleans the litter box the same way, this is the time to decide who, when, how and what cleaning supplies.

The last step is to Sustain, find ways to keep things cleaned and organized. You need to make a routine to keep everything in its place. Until you and your family have the habit of keeping stuff on their homes you can hang some signs to remember the procedure. Once a week, while sweeping the house check for compliance. Communicate with the family if something was out of place, keep working on creating the routine.

Your life will be easier following these steps, no more wasted time looking for items. Of course, you can do this exercise with toys, sports items, books, office or school supplies and many others. 5S is an excellent way to keep everything organized.

CI Tools

What is 5S?

5S is the five steps program for housekeeping and workplace organization. Standard work, waste elimination, and 5S are the foundation of the common-sense improvements approach. 5S stands for five words that together make this cleaning and organization methodology. The steps are Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain. Together, they promote stability and improvements in the business processes.

In the first step, Sort you go through all the materials, tools, and equipment on the area sorting between necessary and unnecessary items. You will keep only those items that you need to do your job. Also, you keep only the amount you need. During this step, red tags are used to unneeded items to identify them. This is part of the Red Tag Campaign. The rule of thumb is When in doubt, move it out.

During the Set in Order step, you will assign a location for the needed items. Have closer to you those things that you use very often. Think about what I need? Where I need it? How many? Consider to create a central location for shareable items, this will reduce excess inventory. The motto for this step is A place for everything and everything in its place!

Shine is to clean everything inside and out. Inspect for broken pieces, wear and tear, and leaks while cleaning. Make sure that your findings are corrected as soon as possible. Think about ways to minimize reoccurrence. Ask yourself: What to clean? How to clean it? Who is responsible? Set the cleaning standard, how clean is clean. Develop temporary checklists, cleaning responsibilities, and schedules. 5S is not spring cleaning, Make inspect and clean part of your daily routine.

Standardize the preceding three steps. Set clear expectations to make 5S the everyday standard for your workplace. This is the time to revise the temporary signs, maximum number, checklists, schedules, and others. Do you need to change anything? Make sure that the standard is correct before making it official. To avoid falling back to the initial state, Follow the standards daily, success is a habit, not an act.

Sustain is a never-ending step. You want to make sure that all four previous steps are followed every day. Develop a 5S mentality by promoting 5S daily, recognizing success, and correcting out of the standard situations. Create and enforce a 5S training for new team members. The motto for 5S is Cleaning and organizing is a practice, not a project. Make 5S part of your daily routine.

Some of the benefits of 5S are obtaining a clean, sanitary, and pleasant work environment, remove safety hazards and improving employee morale and motivation. 5S also creates a great first impression for customers and visitors. Start using 5S as part of your improvement program today!