Article by Chris Emrich (Regional Fleet Services Manager) in the First Quarter 2016 Eagle Eye News.
What is the Lean Process?
The Lean Process comes from the Japanese word Kaizen, which means “Continuous effort by each and every employee to ensure improvement of all processes and systems of a particular organization.”
That sounds a lot like Southeastern’s Quality Improvement Process (QIP), doesn’t it? Well, in the five-step process of Lean, it certainly does align itself with our QIP. Just the meaning of Kaizen alone pretty much states SEFL’s meaning of I.Q.: People Committed to Individualized Quality.
Taking any individualized workgroup, department or company to “Lean” doesn’t just happen overnight by someone having an idea or making a decision. It takes an entire team effort. There is a five-step process to make that happen which is referred to as “The 5S’s.” The 5S’s consist of Sort, Straighten, Shine, Standardize and Sustain. Each one is a process in itself…and The Order is Everything.
Sorting is going through all the items in the location implementing Kaizen. This includes determining the frequency of use for every item and marking the items that are not used. After a set period of time, the items marked will be discarded if they are not used during that designated period of time. If items fall into the “Discard item” section they should be returned to where they were purchased if possible, recycle them or donate them. The “Sorting” will eliminate areas of clutter and unwanted items.
Now that the unwanted items have been discarded in one way or the other, the team will place items kept, in an order of the frequency of usage. Ideas from the associates will help us determine where items should be placed and why. Not only is the “Lean Process” eliminating clutter, it helps eliminate waste. Technician time can be reduced if certain items are more readily available to them in or close by their working area. For example, placing a garbage can at one end of the shop doesn’t make sense to have the technicians walk to the end of the shop to throw garbage away. If every shop bay has a garbage can, it eliminates these wasted steps. Eliminating waste gains efficiency!
This activity allows all associates to visually inspect areas for items out of place and correct the opportunity. The area should also be kept clean and neat with general daily housekeeping items such as sweeping and mopping.
This process makes the information about locations more recognizable. If labels are formatted in the same manner, it is much easier to visually recognize if items are out of place. It also sets the standard for everyone to work as a team headed in the same direction. Our commitment to Belief, Alignment and Teamwork reminds us that “A Unified Team is a Competitive Weapon.” Locations implementing this process will shadow box items on pegboards, in cabinets, paintings on the floor, etc. This process allows any associate to know if a tool or item needed is being used by another associate and it also helps them to know where to return a tool or item so the next associate needing that item knows where to find it. Everything has a place and needs to be returned to its place after use.
Sustain, also known as Self-Discipline, is everyone maintaining the other four S’s. This will sustain the effort that was put forth to improve the process. Great companies have great discipline!