Does the pic below look familiar?? At least from the green pitch, still not matching your beer coaster on the TV table …

While an (un) desired presence in sport, meaning the player is expelled from the game, it may just be that the „little red card” helps you do better.





redtagOMCNow if you are into operations, you may well find the above quite in place. WHAT ON EARTH IS IT?

This red card (or tag as it is also called, thus giving us red tagging) is a consistent sub-process and part of the 1st S of the Japanese 5S system, (what do you mean „What 5S system??”).

Red tagging process helps us thoroughly and effectively sort what is usable and useful on the shop floor from what is not.


The selected area is patrolled by employees carrying red tag packs. The objective is for them to find as many as possible objects to red tag – meaning:

a. either that item shouldn’t be in production area or

b. it belongs somewhere else, or the quantity is exceeding.

Items marked as above stated are transferred to a previously designated „hold area” or quarantine, where they are to be eliminated after a certain deadline if no justification is given by the process/item owner. A lot of photos should be taken of the „before” state.

Other criteria such as quantity/location/frequency of use should be considered.

On completion of the red tagging event, success is measured and action plans are defined for the future state.

Now your work area certainly should look uncluttered and leaner!

Disclaimer 🙂 red tagging works wonders in warehouses, production shop floors, but also offices!!



The Different Types of Manufacturing

Manufacturing and the management and control thereof is not all the same. Generally, it can be classified into three main groups (or types) as follows:

        1. Once-off Manufacturingthis is where manufacturing is hardly ever the same as before e.g. shipbuilding or production of special purpose machinery. Manufacturing management and control of this type takes the form of project management, using network analysis as well as specialised resource management.
        2. Batch Manufacturing – this is where repetitive manufacturing of batches of the same (or similar) products takes the form of component manufacturing, followed by sub assembly and thereafter, final assembly. Examples include computers, television sets, motor vehicles etc. (Note! some companies don’t produce the components, but rather outsource this work to supplier companies). Manufacturing management and control of this type is complex and all the elements of Lean Manufacturing are ideally suited.
        3. Continuous Process Manufacturingthis is where high volume repetitive processing takes the form of continuous production and subsequent packaging. Normally this is done using special purpose process plant. Examples include beverages, processed foods, paper and chemicals etc. (Note! Some processes are not fully continuous — rather in large batches. Then storage vessels are used as a buffer between primary processing and subsequent blending and packaging operations). Manufacturing management and control of this type integrates all aspects of process control of the plant, the inputs and outputs along each stage, the availability of materials at the right times as well as all the interventions necessary to keep the plant in a state of reliability and controlled process capability. Therefore, certain elements of Lean Manufacturing are suitable but not all.

Factors that need to be managed and controlled in Manufacturing Operations

Lean Manufacturing provides very specific management and control of manufacturing operations. In the case of Batch Manufacturing, these include:

 Orderliness of the work-place as a pre-requisite for management and control of all operations

  • Manufacturing plant layout for streamlined flow of components and products

 Manufacturing process coupling for simplification of batch tracking and control between processes

 Balance of manufacturing flow for regularisation of manufacturing operations

 Control of work in process in order to manage manufacturing input/output and process lead times

 Manufacturing scheduling to ensure conformance to specific customer timing requirements

 Kanban and all its derivatives to keep regularised control of individual shop floor operations

  • Management of safety, health and the environment for conformance to legal requirements

In the case of Continuous Process Manufacturing the elements of Lean Manufacturing include:

  • Orderliness of the work-place as a pre-requisite for management and control of all operations
  • Quality-at-Source’ management for process and product quality assurance
  • Manufacturing Plant Reliability management to minimise plant stoppages
  • Manufacturing process output management for control of process costs
  • Waste management for control of material costs
  • Process logistics management for orderliness and optimised utilisation of assets
  • Management of safety, health and the environment for conformance to legal requirements





Seiketsu – Simplify and Standardise


The objective of this element of 5S is to make the work “easier” for everyone – as said earlier, easy to understand – easy to do. The overarching objective is to ensure that quality of workmanship is preserved. Another objective is to ensure consistency of work output through application of standardised best work methods.

One of the most challenging features of 5S is encountered in this element – this happens when difficult (and sometimes dangerous) work has to be addressed to overcome heavy, arduous tasks. Facilities needed to make work easier (or apply ergonomic principles) often require ingenuity and can involve considerable expenditure. Long term business views need to be adopted in respect of these objectives


This starts with listing of all work activities at the workplace. The focus is on identification (and documentation) of all the difficult, arduous and dangerous tasks. Secondly, all the tasks that provide potential for non-standard work methods must also be identified and documented.

Thereafter, plans need to be made to overcome the difficult arduous and dangerous work activities. This work must be done by the people who are directly involved in the work but they may need the assistance of specialists (e.g. Industrial Engineers or Mechanical Handling Equipment Specialists etc.). Once the plans have been finalised, budgets of expenditure need to be prepared for submission to senior management.

Next, the planning for standardisation needs to be done. The amount of formal work procedures and work instructions that already exist will determine the extent of this planning work. Another consideration is the degree to which blithe acceptance of existing procedures must be made. In the interest of work excellence, it may be necessary to review and amend all the work procedures and instructions – indeed, even the very process standards may require review. As said before, the best people to carry out the process of reviewing (or setting new) standards must be the people who do the work. Everything must be carefully documented and document change control procedures are recommended. Managers and supervisors may want to oversee the outputs of this work.

This element of 5S is the most difficult to implement. Special training on documented procedures and standards will be needed. Check sheets and documented process standards will be required if these are complex. Consistency of application will become a subject requiring auditing.

Keys to Success of Seiketsu – Simplify and Standardise

  • Decisions regarding simplification of work and work methods are not easy to make. What may seem simplified to one person may not apply to another. Moreover, over-simplification of work methods may lead to risks of adherence to work standards…
  • If many people (and different shifts) are involved in this element, consideration must be given to the manner in which the consistency of the work is assessed…
  • In the spirit of continuous improvement, consideration needs to be given to formal processes for further simplification of the work with subsequent standardisation…
  • Care needs to be taken to ensure formality in respect of Seiketsu but also avoiding the trap of bureaucracy ‘stepping in and spoiling everything’…

Shitsuke (Sustain and Self Discipline)


A changed (implying improved) way of worklife for everybody is the main objective. This is attempted through consistency of application of all the elements of 5S – but there is a danger! A static achievement is not desirable – the emphasis must remain on ever improving work practices. So, the better objective is Sustained Improvement.

Another objective is concerned with self-discipline on the part of everybody involved. Without this self-discipline the entire 5S endeavour will not work. It has been intimated before that 5S is all about mind-set matters. Self-discipline itself is a mind-set matter, so it may be very appropriate to start the entire 5S process with this important aspect.


Ostensibly this focuses on taking all of the previous elements of 5S (including the standardising sub element of the fourth element), and transforming them into ongoing habits in order to ensure continuous improvement. But the mind-set of self-discipline is needed not only for the fifth element, Shitsuke – it is needed for every other element.

In order to instil the mind-set of self-discipline, there must first be an imperative to change – otherwise, some people may get involved and commit to 5S but not everybody.

And so the question arises – what is the optimum order of priority of what to do first in 5S and then in what sequence should everything else follow?

Because you are dealing with mind-set issues, the easiest and most practical manner to go about deployment of 5S is to understand following;

  • In order to influence the attitudes of people, you have to provide them with information
  • If sufficient information is provided and attitudes change, this will start to influence the behaviour of people – then results will begin to reinforce the original information that was provided
  • If behaviours of people are altered sufficiently, new patterns of behaviour will emerge
  • If these new patterns of behaviour are sustained, they become habits
  • When habitual behaviour patterns are entrenched, they influence the mind-set of people
  • When mind-set matters become entrenched, people will adopt the self-discipline needed to sustain habitual behaviour patterns…

Deployment of 5S

Using all the information described above let us consider one 5S deployment tactic;

First – provide all the people involved with sufficient information on 5S – what it comprises, what it can do for business (and for each individual), where it has worked before and how it will improve the work-lives of everybody involved. It may be necessary to take small selected groups of people on a tour to one or more applications of 5S in practice in order to enhance their understanding of the concepts and principles – certainly a lot of training will be required…

Second – encourage a small select group of people to begin experimenting with Element 1 and 2 of 5S in a small work area in a controlled manner (call it a Pilot Site if needed). These people need to report their experiences with elements 1 and 2 of 5S to their colleagues. Where some difficulties are encountered, it will be necessary for managers and supervisors to get to understand the specifics of these in order to assist them to overcome these difficulties. Once a certain degree of mastery of these two elements is gained, it will be useful to rotate other people into the pilot site so that they too can get experience with it…

Third – when sufficient experience has been gained, Element 3 of 5S should be introduced and the same pattern followed as described in the second stage…

Fourth – when sufficient experience has been gained, Element 4 of 5S should be introduced and the same pattern followed as described in the third stage…

Fifth – when sufficient experience has been gained, Element 5 of 5S should be introduced and the same pattern followed as described in the fourth stage. At the same time, a 5S Audit Sheet needs to be designed for use as part of Element 5 (a typical audit sheet is shown in the Appendix to this paper…

Sixth – when sufficient experience has been gained with all the Elements of 5S in the Pilot Site, a roll-out of 5S can be begun in a controlled manner (if this happens too quickly, confusion may be experienced). It is recommended that the roll-out should be done in the same stages as the Pilot Site.

Probable Causes of Difficulties with 5S after Deployment

Contributing factors may include:

  • Inadequate training of people. Sometimes, it may just be that they have not had effective or sufficient training so that they know what is expected of them. This is especially common when deployment of 5S progresses too fast. Confusion can also arise from employee turnover, when new employees find themselves unable to cope due to lack of knowledge or practice
  • Sometimes the work schedules need to be adjusted so that time for 5S tasks is available
  • Lack (or even slowness) of response to requested assistance (or feedback), particularly in Element 4 of 5S
  • The degree to which collaborative work is new to the people involved may also give rise to difficulties with 5S.

S3 – Seiso (Shine or ‘Deep Clean’)

Shine is about being “Proactive” versus “Reactive.”









It’s much easier to maintain a clean work environment than it is to react and clean a very messy work environment.

Stemming from the Japanese term ‘Seiso’ is “Shine,” which means to sweep or sanitize. This is the third stage of a 5S project. First and foremost, the shine phase is basically a complete and unapologetic cleaning of the entire workstation or space. In this phase, employees and staff should be cleaning, dusting, polishing, sweeping, and vacuuming along with anything else that is needed to attain perfect order.

How it Works:

  1. In nearly any case, a clean workplace is a safer workplace. For instance, keeping floors clear of dust and debris helps to reduce the risk of trips, slips, and falls – an extremely common cause for workplace injury. A clean workplace also helps to counteract any potential infections or other health hazards employees might otherwise encounter. Simply put, workplace accidents have the potential to destroy efficiency, and a good shining can help workers avoid them.
  2. Cleaning can be used as an inspection tool. Clear expectations are necessary for positive employee interactions and, ultimately, results. When employees know what is expected of their workspace, they are more likely to keep things in that state. Posting imagery nearby that shows the fully cleaned or “shined” state of a workspace can be a helpful way to keep this communication alive even when no one is physically present to deliver it. Furthermore, an information board can even show step-by-step instructions on how certain areas or tools are meant to be cleaned at the beginning and/or the end of a shift.
  3. A regular and thorough cleaning helps to prevent tool and machinery degradation. Not only does this help with safety as described above, but it can also ensure that these items last longer. A longer natural lifespan means less costly replacement and maintenance in the future.

Shine Tips:

  • Be proactive, not reactive. Cleaning should always be carried out on a schedule because of its own adherence to that schedule, not in response to a workspace that has grown too cluttered to navigate efficiently. Reactive cleaning indicates a lack of cleaning already in progress and also suggests that workers are unable or unwilling to stick with the schedule. Shine is not about cleaning up messes as they arise, instead it is more about implementing the proper cleanliness strategies to avoid making messes in the first place.
  • Workers should take turns rotating into a supervisory role in which they are tasked with ensuring that “shine” is up to par and done in sensible ways. This team member should be responsible for working with other members of the team on their own habits. Rotating this job helps to keep everyone happy and involved, and it also may save managers and supervisors time as they will not have to constantly carry out the task themselves.
  • When a shine is done properly and on schedule for a certain period of time, rewarding workers with simple incentives (pizza parties, gift certificates, awards, etc.) can be an easy way to keep the positive momentum going. This can be useful when moving forward with the remaining 5S steps.
  • Clean your workplace completely
  • Use cleaning as inspection
  • Prevent machinery and equipment deterioration
  • Keep workplace safe and easy to work
  • Keep work place clean and pleasing to work in
  • When in place anyone not familiar to the environment must be able to detect problems in 5 seconds within 50 feet.

2. The Second S – Seiton (Shelve or Store Away)


The objective is to minimise wasted time at the workplace. Whenever anything is needed for the work to proceed, no time should be wasted while people search for it. Nor should undue amounts of time be wasted while people fetch what is needed. Nothing can be as disruptive to productive work as stop/start operations when time is wasted. Most quality related problems occur when production stops and starts.


This starts with decisions on what items will be needed for the production process, how frequently and in what sequence. These should be written on some schedule for the sake of clarity of thought. Sometimes every item cannot be predicted beforehand – in such cases, utility items must be identified in some ‘in-case’ manner. It follows that the people who do the work are the best placed to make these decisions. The next lot of decisions that are needed concern how best to store the items (e.g. shelves or bins etc.) and in what proximity to the workplace. Then, how best to move the items to where they are needed (concerning item mass, ergonomic factors etc.). Finally, decisions are needed concerning the signposting of the storage areas as well as rapid detection when some item is missing from its storage place.

As mentioned earlier, special purpose containers, trolleys and spring loaded suspension devices will be needed. The cost for these needs to be planned and budgeted, so decision-making will extend to supervisory and management staff as well. Storage facilities need not necessarily be purchased every time – the writer has witnessed many very ingenious low cost ideas that serve the purpose very well.

Once the decision-making process is over the workplace should be drawn or mapped. Areas where the items are going to be stored/shelved should be shown. Attention should be paid to all the activities that form part of the work in or around the work station. Ergonomics and convenient posture for workers must be considered (e.g. stretching and reaching etc.). The most frequently used items should reside in easy-to-access areas with the least restrictions allowable.

Once all this planning work is complete, the storage facilities can be built and installed. Everything should be well organised so there may need to be some iterations of arranging it all before satisfactory results are achieved. Acceptability of the storage arrangements can only be measured by consideration of time wastage on fetching/retrieving needed items. This can be somewhat subjective so ‘many heads will be better than one.’

Keys to Success of Seiton – Shelve/Store Away

  • Any item that is not needed for the work, must be in its own storage space away from the workplace – either being refurbished (say if calibration or sharpening is needed as in the case of some tools) – or ready to be fetched and used next time. It is useful to see at a glance whenever some item is away from its storage space (e.g. shadow boards etc.). The accent here is; “is the item ready and available for use when needed so that time will not be wasted searching for it”…
  • Is retrieval of items quick and easy? Disruption to the work must be minimised…
  • If Items need to be shared between different work stations, care must to be taken to ensure that information on the whereabouts and availability is easily accessed by the people involved…
  •  Ergonomic issues concerning retrieval items (e.g. the height of the people involved or whether they are right or left handed etc.), need to be incorporated as far as practically possible.






Seiri – Sort


S1 (Japanese word Seiri – 整理) This element is commonly given the name; Sort and Discard. This is all about getting rid of anything that clutters the workplace. The people who work in a given area (say a work station) continually survey all the contents in the work area to remove anything that is not immediately needed to complete the work. Nothing must clutter any part of the work area at any time.


Seiri (Sort)

Sort is the first step in any 5S process. The term sort is originally derived from the Japanese word ‘Seiri.’ Each step in the 5S process has an associated goal that can be specifically outlined to help guide efforts. For the step of sort, the goal is to remove unnecessary items from the room, station, or space being organized. Furthermore, the sorting phase also aims to provide a clean slate on which to build and carry out the other four steps.

Beginning the process of sort starts out simply as nearly everything should be removed from the target area. Even though taking items from one space and placing them into a big pile in another space seems like it just may be making a mess, this is simply not true. Instead, this is the opportunity to really make decisions on what needs to stay and what needs to go so actions can be immediately taken on items that are no longer used or needed.

How it Works:

Industrial bins are needed for an accurate sort.

Based on the standard approach, there are three to four “bins” or sorting categories used when conducting a 5S sort.

The three or four bins are as follows:

Keep: These are items that are used frequently and are essential to the operation of the workplace being sorted. If the target area is a supply room, tool shed, or another area that feeds into greater business operations, employees should be evaluated on how often they draw tools from the sort area to utilize those items. These items should be returned to the 5S’d area after sorting is complete.

Remove: Items that are not needed and are simply taking up space should be placed in a bin or pile to be removed. Example items might include the following: broken or outdated tools, chemicals or components that have degraded or passed their expiration date.

Probation: Items in this pile or bin are being evaluated for use. A specific amount of time should be set (that is appropriate to your business cycle) during which items will be evaluated to see whether they are utilized often enough to keep. After the probationary period, these items are either discarded or organized back into the original work space.

To-Move: This option is talked about less, but is still an important consideration for items that may be helpful in your business. Items that are not needed often but must be on hand for times when they are required will need to be relocated. These items will eventually find new homes in other stations or rooms that make the most sense for them.

Sort Tips

  • Different spaces require different sorting frequencies. For example, a workstation should be sorted to ensure tidiness everyday it will be used. On the other hand, a storage or filing cabinet may only need to undergo the initial steps of 5S monthly, quarterly, or even annually.
  • It is important to actively audit the sorting process of any 5S’d space to ensure accuracy and attentiveness. Sometimes, an emphasis on organization can overshadow other important areas; be sure to check in on tool calibration, supply expiration dates, and potential safety hazards while areas are undergoing audit organization.
  • Remove unnecessary items and dispose of them properly.
  • Make work easier by eliminating obstacles.
  • Reduce chance of being disturbed with unnecessary items.
  • Prevent accumulation of unnecessary items.
  • Evaluate necessary items with regard to cost or other factors.
  • Remove all parts not in use.
  • Segregate unwanted material from the workplace.
  • Need fully skilled supervisor for checking on regular basis.
  • Don’t put unnecessary items at the workplace & define a red-tagged area to keep those unnecessary items.
  • Waste removal.








… 5S in birou?? Lean office?







A Simple 5S cloudDefinition… (courtesy of Luke Nickola

5S enables collective orderly mind-sets to be integrated with practical, work related activities and processes that provide a conducive work environment in which productive work can flourish like never before…

What’s it all about?

5S is a simple, yet ingenious ‘methodology’ that has successfully been deployed world-wide to improve work organisation and efficiency in all types of workplaces. The five foundational elements of 5S function together in concert, to ensure that workplace orderliness (in every respect), proceeds simultaneously with the work. 5S is not something that must be performed in addition to the work – rather, the 5S activities constitute the manner in which the work is performed. Moreover, 5S is also not an initiative (or intervention) that any given business attempts and then abandons, it becomes an integral part of the ‘way work is done.’

5S does change the way the workplace is organized in that it features a very visual approach to control and applies very practical, standardised routines that involve every person in the workplace. Furthermore, work related communication is enhanced to the extent that verbal communication is minimised.

Where does it work? My business is not industrial!!??

Well, actually all environments could benefit from the application of 5S!

As stated above, 5S is a methodology, but it is ‘more than that.’ 5S introduces a collective, comprehensive mind-set that focuses on efficiency and value creation. Every aspect concerning the workplace and the work processes becomes the focus of attention for excellence (in a proactive sense). 5S is not about housekeeping, it is much more than that.

Finally, here is a note on involvement of every person in the workplace. 5S will not work successfully unless everyone in the workplace is fully involvement and committed. This requires a very clear understanding of the objectives and principles of 5S as well full participation in decision-making concerning the application thereof. Because this implies thorough dissemination of information as well as learning and development for everyone, the remainder of this paper will focus on the detail and application of all the elements of 5S.

The Description of the Elements of 5S

There are five foundational elements, each with Japanese names because 5S was originally developed in Japan. Subsequently, 5S has been adopted and applied throughout the world (as said above). The five Japanese names appear below phonetically together with the Japanese and English equivalents. A brief description of the meaning of each element is included:

(to be continued…)


Perspectives from where we (in Lean Quality Academy ) see the future of manufacturing in Europe….

  1. The ‘Engine Room’ of Business Success

Sustainable competitiveness in manufacturing businesses means adapting to changes in the market demands rapidly. The practice of ‘doing more of the same’ will not lead to success as it has in the past. The macro-economic changes that have had a profound impact on business during the first 15 years of this century have originated from fierce global competitive activity, rapid technological advancements on a broad front, impactful changes in global economic power as well as the rapidly changing socio-economic environment which has brought unprecedented challenges to the very ‘doorstep’ of Europe. Right now the subject of discussions in many board-rooms now concerns just how to adapt current business practices to meet the challenges of changing market demands.

There are two foundational imperatives that are unavoidable if you want sustainable manufacturing business success – and you have to have these two in unison:

  • Superior levels of commitment from all the people at all levels in the organisation – commitment to achieve clearly stated objectives every time, always…
  • Full control of all the work processes and practices…

Over the years many manufacturing systems and improvement programmes have come and gone. One of the more enduring of these was based on what is commonly called the ‘Lean Thinking Approach.’

We contend that what is needed now to achieve enduring success is the application of Grey Matter Thinking to those methodologies that are considered to be tried and tested.

  1. Superior Levels of Commitment from all the people at all levels in the organisation…

Contrary to popular belief about people in manufacturing and resistance to change, there is always a sufficiently large group of people in any organisation, who don’t mind being influenced to think differently about the work processes provided they can see the logical need for it. However, in order to successfully influence these people, another group of influencers is needed. This latter group needs to be comprised of people who really know what is needed to bring about superior levels of commitment on the part of all the people in the organisation.

There is no single pattern to successfully influencing the patterns of collective thinking of people in an organisation. However, let’s learn from elements that have contributed to success in the past. These include:

  • Communication in the sense of relating to people so that their needs are fully understood as well as getting them to understand the organisation needs in order to synthesise these…
  • Provide strategic focus so that the people will understand what’s required and will want to pursue this. This implies working with the people to collectively establish relevant strategic objectives (stratified for the different levels) so that they will know how they fit in…
  • Devolve responsibility through guided autonomy so that everyone can contribute to these strategic objectives in their day-to-day work routines.
  1. Full Control of all the Work Processes and Practices

The over-arching purpose of being in full control of all work processes/practices is to get ahead and stay ahead of all competitors. Clearly, such business competitiveness is reliant on a range of functions (both core and support) taking place in concert in the company.

One of the biggest obstacles to achieving full control of the work processes is variation. Whether the variation is inherent in the work process itself or can be attributed to lack of skills/abilities of people who do the work, is beside the point.

Process variation can be overcome by using technological solutions. Variation caused by lack of skills/abilities of the people involved constitutes the real challenge. This calls for the greatest degree of care to achieve the correct ‘balance,’ so as to retain full control of the processes.

What this means is that the prevailing levels of skill/abilities will determine the degrees of structure needed to keep control of the process. By structure, we mean the extent of prescription that procedures and work instructions provide as well as the amount of autonomy that the people working are permitted.


Subsequent sections of this blog will deal separately (and in detail) with all that is required to apply Grey Matter Thinking in order to achieve sustainable competitiveness in manufacturing companies…

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