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Do You Believe You Can Sustain Improvement?

by Ben McCombs
Industrial Engineer

Sustaining 5-S in a retail store may sound challenging. Let’s approach this challenge from a perspective a lot of us are familiar with, washing and waxing a car? Think about the process, sounds simple enough, right? But, a number of things are required to do it properly: water, cleaner, microfiber towels, polish, wax, etc. These items will be needed every single time you wash and wax, regardless of the vehicle’s size or quantity. Also, your work area must be prepared, you will need a process, layout, organization, etc. What happens when you’re missing one or two of these items? What impact does that have on your desired outcome?

Much like cleaning a car, we’re going to take a look at how sustaining a 5-S workplace environment will prove to be the most crucial item of all for the process of creating and maintaining accurate labor standards. Without an ongoing effort for sustaining 5-S implementation prepare to watch your hard work slip away long before the benefits are ever achieved.

Today’s competitive marketplace demands retailers to deliver results. Delivering results, while important, is really only the first step. What good is your cleaned car, if it doesn’t extend the value of your paint finish? Think of this in terms of sustaining 5-S. You’ve already done the heavy lifting. You brought in supplies, set up an organized best methods environment, and allocated resources. All that’s left now is caring for your finished product. Much like washing and waxing a new car. It’s easy to care for something new, it’s exciting, right? In time, however, much like a 5-S program; the excitement factor begins to fade and next thing you know; the car is full of water bottles, gym clothes, fast food containers and dog hairs.

As with many aspects of life, staying on top of 5-S each day, each week is the only way to keep the program alive and strong. Be diligent in your efforts to sustain. Create guidelines and checklists for each department to follow. Pulling everyone on board is the only way for the program to survive. From Associates to Department managers, to Store and Assistant Managers; everyone has specific roles and expectations. Hold meetings to share updates and success stories. Designate a store champion and chain wide champion to monitor 5-S sustainment and report results to upper management.

As with many aspects of life, staying on top of 5-S each day, each week is the only way to keep the program alive and strong. Be diligent in your efforts to sustain. Create guidelines and checklists for each department to follow. Pulling everyone on board is the only way for the program to survive. From Associates to Department managers, to Store and Assistant Managers; everyone has specific roles and expectations. Hold meetings to share updates and success stories. Designate a store champion and chain wide champion to monitor 5-S sustainment and report results to upper management.

Sustaining 5-S is critical for accurate labor standards, it’s the precedent for which all expectations are based on. Too often retailers find themselves overlooking the significance of sustaining 5-S in pursuit of scheduling perfection. Undermining the value of a 5-S workspace is like washing a car without any cleaner and drying it without a towel.

Saved time, saved inventory, improved training, boosted morale, more attention on the customer; all proven benefits of 5-S can only be achieved if 5-S is institutionalized and sustained as a continuous refinement process.

Above and beyond the setup of 5-S, the real key success is evolving to changing environments and being able to keep your progress in place. Employees should feel empowered; ready to embrace 5-S organization and best method techniques every single day.

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