• Zero 5S: A ton of anything (even money) is ugly

    Reylito A.H. Elbo

    Reylito A.H. Elbo

    EFFICIENCY experts have spent decades trying to discover the answer to the question: “What makes people and organizations quality-oriented and productive?” If you Google this question, chances are, you’ll be drowned by an ocean of information containing more than 8.15 million entries in 0.78 seconds without getting the answer you need.

    That’s because the key words “quality” and “productive” alone are too much to understand for many of us. If you pose the same question to a focus group discussion, like those found in LinkedIn, you’ll get many varied answers—from the mundane to complex applications. But most of the time, conflicting perspectives can be more confusing, if not amusing.

    According to Henry Ford, “quality means doing it right when no one is looking.” This is best understood if you connect it with the principles of “building quality at the source,” which is often related to the Three Don’ts of Defect, as in: First, don’t make defects. Second, unintentionally or intentionally, don’t send those defects to customers. Third, (if you’re the customer), don’t accept the defect, unless you’re in government. Of course, the last one is a joke.

    There’s always room at the top, because people who are there would normally fall asleep and roll off, because they ignored quality and productivity. I’ve seen this happening many times, everywhere. Sure, there are many approaches toward quality and productivity improvement. The first thing on top of my head is through the Philippine Quality Award.

    Whatever road you take, you’ve to start with 5S—the universal rule of good housekeeping that is continuously being popularized by the Japanese even without them lifting a finger. OK, if you’re not comfortable with the Japanese seiri, seiton, seiso, seiketsu, shitsuke, then use the American sort, set-in order, shine, standardize, and sustain.

    The first thing to do is to start wherever you are with baseline information or Zero S. Identify all possible opportunities by taking photos of the current situation. Identify the best angle for location to prepare for the “before” and “after” pictures.

    Do the baseline audit. Identify the bottlenecks or where killer expenses are made. If you can afford it, hire an external consultant to give you a fresh set of critical, but objective pair of eyes. If you think, a trial and error approach is costly, then go on—consult a government agency like the National Wages and Productivity Commission who can help small and medium enterprises.

    The next step is to build the standards according to your industry. If your competitors are keeping their cards close to their chest, then visit a non-competing Kaizen powerhouse like Toyota or any world-class factory like Nestlé, Mondeliz, or Unilever.

    If you’re a small business supplier to a major organization, the best approach is to approximate the standards of your client, which would be happy to help you. After all, supplier partnering is the essence of the word “total” in Total Quality Management. Besides, it is in the best interest of your clients to help their suppliers.

    Most of the time, your client can even initiate a 5S audit where it can help you discover the list of opportunities and ensure the maximum impact to company operations. This can happen even when you’re not attempting to increase the price of your products, if not you’re always delayed in the delivery.

    At the first instance of a serious 5S implementation, you’ll easily remove wastes that would otherwise slow the process down, if not readily create a safe work area, and make everything easier to visualize.

    It is better to give than to lend, and it costs about the same. If you think you need my help but cannot afford my professional fee, let me know and we can talk about a possible win-win solution.

    Still, if you can’t appreciate the importance of 5S, call your mother or scrub a toilet. Either one will help you put your mind into proper perspective.

    This reminds me of the story of twin brothers—one who became a religious minister and the other a physician. It was almost impossible to tell the twins apart. One time, a man approached one of them on the street and asked:

    “Are you the one of the two who preaches?”

    His answer was clear and succinct: “I’m sorry for the confusion, but I’m the one who practices.”

    Really, it is a major mistake for everyone to theorize before getting baseline and factual data.

    Rey Elbo is a business consultant with a fused interest in human resources and total quality management. Send feedback to elbonomics@gmail.com or follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter for his random thoughts.


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