Building the 5S Team

5S team

Implementing 5S is not a one-person job.

Much like kaizen is continuous improvement involving everyone, 5S works best when you divide and conquer the tasks associated with managing 5S implementations. 

When 5S implementation is left to one person to implement and manage, it becomes very time consuming and difficult to scale and maintain.  It makes sense to involve others, but how do you get others to help and be as committed as you are? And who do you recruit? What do they focus on?

The good news is that 5S is made easier by having a team if you follow some proven best practices. Join David Visco, author of 5s Made Easy and The 5S Success Mindset, as he shares why putting a team in place to help with implementing and sustaining 5S doesn’t have to be that difficult. In this webinar, you will learn:

  • The key functions involved in a high-performing 5S team
  • The responsibilities that should be shared by each team member
  • Tips for recruiting your 5S Team
  • Questions to ask yourself to identify how the team is working.

Meet Your 5S Guide

David Visco is sharing important tips you can use to ensure that implementing and sustaining 5S is a success in your company.

Transcript of the Webinar for Building the 5S Team


Let’s get started with our webinar about building 5S success. I’d like to introduce our speaker. David Visco is a 5S expert. Beginning in 1985, David launched his career as a warehouse control manager running a distribution center that managed inventory of over $500 million in value. As he furthered his career, he gained extensive experience across warehouse, production planning, logistics, and materials management. Using 5S in the workplace, he saw a unique opportunity to create a 5S resource. In 2006, he founded the 5S Store, the first online store dedicated entirely to 5S, which provides a massive range of 5S products, free best practices information, and coaching services to thousands of clients. In 2015, his first book 5S Made Easy was published. Today he frequently speaks publicly on the topic of 5S best practices. Take it away, David.


Thanks, Maribeth. Thank you everybody for showing up today. I look forward to helping you out and making 5S easier in 2020. Okay. If there’s one thing that I hear about often when I’m out on the circuit talking to folks and meeting with clients is that they just don’t have enough time for 5S. For that matter, they don’t have much time to do any other job, they’ve just got a laundry list of things to get done. My response to that is typically, look, 5S is not supposed to be a one-person job. If you remember in your wean training, Kaizen, although it has a number of different definitions, but one I like to go by is that it’s continuous improvement involving everyone. So it’s not just you. Particularly with 5S, it’s not just you. So what I suggest folks do is that they divide and conquer, share the wealth a little.

To do that, I’ve got an acronym of SOAR, which is basically a couple of ways that you should share the responsibilities of 5S. There’s a lot of different components of 5S that you can share, but these four will really help you out. First one is supplies. There’s a lot of 5S supplies that you need for your 5S program. I would definitely have somebody else on your team. Actually, for that matter, do you have a team? I hope you have a team because you certainly need a team. Assuming you have a team and you’re going to spread the wealth, have one of those team members deal with just the supplies. So what does that mean? That means making sure that you have red tags on hand, form markings on hand, maybe 5S posters, anything you need for your particular 5S program. Have somebody else responsible for it.

The O in SOAR is open communications. What I mean by that is somebody on your team should be responsible for keeping the meeting minutes of your 5S team meetings, updating of the communication boards throughout the plant, handling the training across your facility, and any other part of 5S that needs to be communicated. Have somebody else responsible for that, not just you. Our favorite part of 5S, audit management. Let somebody else deal with that too. Audits, which we’ll talk more about later, is an incredibly important part of 5S. There’s no need for you to handle that on your own.

Then, R in SOAR is red tag process management. Have someone on your team manage the red tags. In a lot of the plants that I go in, I’ll see red tags here and there throughout the facility, but quite honestly, very few companies ever have any kind of real procedure regarding their red tag processes. I would suggest having somebody in particular manage the red tags, meaning making sure that the red tag areas are gone through on a regular cadence. I like the idea of having somebody do it once a week, just go through and make sure it’s cleaned up and that there isn’t anything sitting in there for a long length of time. That person would also be responsible for getting those materials moved out of there and onto other folks, as well as managing any red tag challenges that you might run up against. So spread that out, let other folks help you, and I’m sure that you’ll be able to succeed as you go on.

Without a doubt, the number one challenge that I hear from folks is, “David, I just can’t sustain. We get through the first three and then we get along to standardizing. We usually do okay there, but we just can’t sustain. As hard as we try, we know people are doing their best, but we need help.” I’ve got several areas here in particular to help you sustain.

First one is training. When I go in and help clients, I tell them, “How about we get a training program in place?” Because a lot of companies don’t have one, they literally just wing it. A simple way of implementing a training program is actually finding my book. With 5S Made Easy, I set it up as a workbook style so that you can open it up in like a classroom type of setting. Maybe you just handle one chapter a week. If you do it just on a weekly basis, it will give you enough momentum to make some real strides and to train people in a methodical manner. That works out really well. But either way, you want to have a document to procedure for 5S, who’s getting trained, how often they trained, et cetera?

Part of that would be having a checklist. Making sure you keep track of who is trained, what they’re trained on, and keep tabs on them, and hold them accountable to doing the training that they’re supposed to be doing. It’s also really important, as I’m sure you know, to make sure that folks are involved in 5S Kaizen events. What I’ve seen in multiple places is just the 5S team, when there’s a 5S team, and they’re the ones that are doing the work. Well, that isn’t how it should be done, right? When you have a particular Kaizen blitz in an area, get people from outside of the department to come in and help. Make sure on the training checklist that everybody’s included in various events throughout the year. Really important. That’s one way that you get everybody on board.

On that topic of onboarding, I like to have 5S included. When you bring somebody in, a new employee or whatnot, make sure right away, like day one, that they know 5S is a part of the culture in what you folks do at your plant, and then make sure to follow up with them. To that note, I’d mentioned that I liked to have HR on a 5S team because they can help make sure that this is all part of your onboarding process for the folks.

Another great way to sustain is with the use of communication boards. As I mentioned earlier, it’s a great idea to have somebody in particular own the boards, keeping them update, make sure they’re updated frequently, standardize them across the plant. There was one company I was at, just a couple of months ago, it was a large plant, but they must have had 20 or 30 boards spread across the plant. Some looked great, others were pig yard, if you will, the papers on them were yellowed and whatnot, and then others looked completely different as well. You don’t want that. You need a standard, right? It’s for best after all, so all your boards should really be standardized.

As far as a particular 5S communication board goes, there’s no one particular way out there, do whatever you think works for your team. But what I found works really well is something similar to what’s on the screen here. Have before-and-after pictures of the particular area that you tackled. Get a team picture and then make sure everybody that was involved has a picture; people really enjoy seeing their face up there. And then, a nice listing of exactly what you did, what improvements you made. That’ll go a long way. If you post that throughout your facility, people will see, assuming it’s updated regularly, which is the second bullet there, people will see that you’ve got a lot of momentum going in 5S. You’ll see later on in the presentation how important that is.

Department meetings. Before I went full time with the 5S Store, a company that I was working at, we had a group of about six folks in this particular department and we had weekly staff meetings. As part of those staff meetings, 5S was always a topic. Beyond it just being a topic, we also made sure that we talked about, as a team, what went well for the week, what areas were challenging for the week, so we made sure to capture the good and the bad.

But then, really important was we had a whole process in place for follow up. If I went into the meeting minutes and we talked about things that were going to work on during the week, the next week we made sure to follow up on them, or whatever due date that we had assigned to those improvements, we always made sure to follow up on that, which is really important. Because I have seen at times where action items are given out and then you get together the next week and nobody bothers covering what the action items were, and before long you’ve just said that culture, that “oh, it didn’t really matter in the first place,” and that’s a huge mistake. So make sure any action items that are put out there are followed up on and people are held accountable. There’s a simple little form on the slide there. You could see you can design your own, but that’s certainly something really simple that you could copy and use.

5S Audits Made Easy. Like I said earlier, everybody loves audits, right? Well, I think 5S audits are actually an incredibly useful tool. However, I found over the years, generally speaking, they’re not done properly. The thing I remind folks is to make sure that they used it as a communication tool, they’re not meant to be used to slap people on the wrists. I’ll give you an example. I had a client years ago that you would all know, big company. They asked me to come out there to do a 5S assessment. They wanted to get their hands on how are we doing with our 5S process? So, it was great.

I flew out there and met with them and whatnot, spent the day. Really long building, so I was all the way at the end of the facility in one department, really clean place too. I go into this one department that’s about half a dozen people working in there. They’re doing their thing and I’m talking to them and asking them, how are you doing, how’s your 5S process, what is it that you do here, what improvements have you made, et cetera? And it was great. People were talking back and forth, they were really thrilled to show me what they had done, and it was really going well.

Then, and I kid you not, you almost kind of heard this music in the background, this dun dun dun where all of a sudden you walk down the aisle and you see this group of people walking with clipboards in their hands. I mean, this place was huge, they probably 80 yards away and they were coming our way. Well, as they turned into the department, all of the excitement in the department just went cold. Everybody there just buttoned their whip and didn’t say a word. In this group, which was the 5S team, once led by the 5S champion, and they just came in with the clipboards and their audit sheets, just stormed through the area, opened cabinets and whatnot, and turned around and left. They didn’t talk to a single soul.

I looked over at the general manager and she just bowed her head in shame. She was disgusted by what we had just witnessed. I’ve seen that type of audit process in place over the years, and that just isn’t the point. The point isn’t so that you could fill out a chart and post it somewhere and track your 5S improvements. That’s not it by a long shot. It’s completely in place so that there is an open line of communication with this methodology that you’ve decided to implement called 5S. To make sure everybody’s on the same page, the expectation is set, and that we could keep moving towards improving for the better.

What I like to see during an audit is whoever’s got the clipboard or whoever is the lead of the audit to manage it such that they go and talk to the folks and they ask how it’s going. And they listen, which is a huge skill, really important skill, is just listen, take notes on whatever and ask, “What is it that I can do to make things better for you?” It’s really important. Open the line of communication. Everybody is included.

I’d also suggest that you have a written procedure about how audits are done. One company I was at recently actually had that, it was very well written. Unfortunately, during my tour, I noticed most of the audits that were done throughout the facility were like four months old. So although they had a procedure, they weren’t keeping them up-to-date. That goes to the third bullet there, is to make sure there’s a regular cadence. I’ve seen some companies do it daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly. Personally, I’m not a fan of daily, not a fan of quarterly or even monthly. I like a weekly audit because it really helps set the tone. Now I realize sometimes that your facility is so large that doing it weekly may be difficult, but you can spread it around three groups. Like I mentioned earlier, share it, it doesn’t need to be a one-person job.

It should never ever be skipped. One of the mistakes that I see with 5S audits is people just get busy, right? Which we said in the very beginning, everybody’s busy. But here’s the thing, if you’re going to put a 5S process in place, and you’re going to be behind it 100% and you want people on board, which I know you do because I hear that that’s a big issue for a lot of folks, they can’t get people involved and they don’t stick to it, it all starts at the beginning of the program. If you’re sending the wrong message by skipping the audits, people are going to think to themselves, “All right, it’s not all that important. No matter how busy we get, we’re not going to do them.” Well, that’s a big mistake. You always have to do your audits. Always.

Another way I’ve seen really successful with helping sustain 5S is what I call a 5-minute 5S. And everybody’s surprised in seeing that in writings over the years. It could be 10, 15 minutes or whatnot. But what I implemented years ago was, in a warehouse I was managing actually, we broke the entire warehouse into quadrants and we assigned those areas to each person in the group. Everybody was responsible for a certain area. We allowed time at the end of the shift to do some 5S. That doesn’t just mean sweeping, right? It means replacing any form or tape that might’ve got torn up, maybe doing some set in water that needed to be done. Just to focus on 5S for about 15 minutes a day. I’m sure they would sweep their area and whatnot, but the idea was to focus on making sure everything was set in order the way you had agreed and making some improvements where need be.

What I would do at the end of the day, every day, is I would do a gemba walk. I would walk through the warehouse and I’d have these management walk cards or something similar to these. These are just post-its. I’d leave them around throughout the area, just so that the team knew that I was actually paying attention. Because I told them we agreed we were going to implement 5S, they knew that they were going to be held accountable. These management walk cards are a great little trick of doing that because they see that you’re actually out there and you’re paying attention. So that’ll work in really keeping the team engaged.

Accountability. I think that’s absolutely huge. You have to hold people accountable. What I’ve discovered is the folks that are the most crucial to doing that are the group leads or the first line supervisors. They’re the folks that are working most directly with the rest of the people, let’s say, in the production floor.

I’ll give you an example. There was a place that I was at, I was touring, it was a loading dock, as luck would have it. A gentleman unloaded a pallet, it was just a manual pallet jack, and he just left the pallet jack about 20 feet away from the area that was clearly set in order by the team at a previous point, and that’s where the pallet jack was supposed to be stored. Well, what happened was he unloaded the pallet, put it away, and then left the pallet jack just sitting there and not where it was meant to be, and then he walked into his office to do whatever he needed to do. Meanwhile, his boss, the group lead of the warehouse saw the whole thing happened and didn’t do anything about it.

I suggest to you that that group lead’s role is incredibly important because if he goes to that person and holds him accountable and says, “Hey, we all worked to a set the warehouse in order to make our lives easier, more efficient, safer and whatnot. Is there some reason why you didn’t put the pallet jack where we had decided?” And talk to him about it. It shouldn’t be an aggressive discussion, not in the least. It should be just asking why didn’t you do what we had set up. Then he more than likely is going to say, “I just didn’t do it.” Then you got to hold him accountable to that.

Well, the point is, that group lead also has to be trained on how to handle those types of situations. That’s really important, again, why I think HR is an important piece in the 5S team. That group lead needs to lead by example, as does his boss, et cetera. Everybody’s got to lead by example. The second that folks see that it’s okay to break the rule, you’ve lost all your momentum. It’s a huge mistake and you can set yourself back.

I also suggest including 5S as part of your performance reviews. That could just be a very simple bullet on the performance review that’s just saying, “This stuff that you did over the year, I know that you’re engaged with 5S. It’s been great. I’ve seen that you’re reaching out, asking questions and what have you.” Or, on the other side of things, “You haven’t been engaged. You haven’t been going to any Kaizen meetings. You’re not talking about 5S when we’re talking about 5S,” that type of thing. They need to be held accountable.

Last, but not least, the number one secret to 5S sustainment is momentum. Just like with a water pump that you see here, the idea here is you pump, you pump, you pump, and do all the hard work. Then, once you’re done and water starts flowing, it’s easy peasy, you don’t have to pump anymore. The same thing with 5S. If you do all the work upfront, and I hear this all the time, you do the first three S’s, set things in order, get them all shined up. But then it doesn’t sustain. And the reason why is because folks haven’t done a lot of things on what I mentioned earlier on sustaining. Then what happens is the well falls back down again and you’ve got to start all over again. Nobody likes to start and stop. So just keep the momentum going. Don’t ever give up. Even if it’s just a few minutes a day or even a week, just keep the momentum going and you’ll find success in 5S.


Thanks for those insights, David. We’ve had a number of questions rolled in during the webinar. Let’s take the next few minutes to respond to a few of them. Our first question comes in from Mark who asks, “Should departments with cutting machines and kitty litter spread about them have at minimum a daily audit or better yet by shifts?”


That’s a great question, Mark. I think by shift would work really well, but not a full audit. It wouldn’t need to be an audit whereby every section on the 5S audit form is checked off and scored. I just think it goes back to that group with holding people accountable to keeping the place neat and orderly on a daily basis and giving everybody those few minutes to clean up at the end of the day. But I wouldn’t do it as a full set audit.


Great. Well, here’s a good one for you. “How do I know how many 5S supplies to have on hand?”


Yeah, that’s a great question. What I like to do is set up a Kanban, I don’t know if folks that are involved know the concept of Kanban, which is very simple reorder process, set up in area where supplies are always stored and set up Kanban levels and cards and whatnot with the vendor name on it and the SKU and figure out how many you need on a regular cadence. We put in place once, it’s just there was a pouch outside of the area and people would leave the Kanban cards behind and the whoever is responsible for that stuff would order it on a regular basis. One tip, though, don’t walk if 5S supply is up. I’ve been at plants where they’re not only in a room, but they’re locked in the cabinet. I think it’s common sense, but that does not help with engagement in the least.


The next question, which I’ve seen a couple of times on our question list here, is, “Who would you suggest that we have on the 5S team?”


Another good question. Certainly, like I mentioned earlier, I like the idea of having somebody from human resources involved. I also like having somebody from facilities on the team, that I don’t see too often, but someone from facilities can really be helpful. There was one client that we were at down here in Massachusetts whereby the team decided they wanted to, not only clean, but they wanted to replace the floors, and paint the walls, and even replace lighting. So having facilities involved helped us put that in place properly. Those people, the facilities group, they kind of have ownership in their minds of the building itself. They got all these folks like marking out stuff and hanging signs and whatnot. Having them included really helps get buy-in throughout the entire facility. So the more people like that you have on your team, the better, and then of course, department managers, and group leads in, and certainly people from the floor that are doing the work day in, day out.


Our next question is about 5S audits. “Who do you suggest conduct those audits, is it supervisors or outsiders?”


Yeah, that’s a common question. You would certainly have whoever on your 5S team is responsible for audits. They would be involved. They would be conducting the audit, but they would have the supervisor or a group lead with them, and then they would go through the area and conduct the audit. I would also have a revolving door of folks from various departments join you on a regular basis. You could set up a simple matrix of everybody in the departments and whatnot. Have somebody join you, if you really want it to be encompassing throughout the company, having different people from different groups join you every once in a while is a really great idea.


For our next question, here’s a good one, “Many of our employees have done their organizing their way for years. Is there an easy way to implement the 5S system to stubborn employees or a way that might at least interest to them?”


Well, I would suggest that if they’re doing it their way, then something got skipped during the standardized process. I actually suggest that standardizing is more difficult than sustaining. A lot of people don’t necessarily agree with that. As part of the example with standards may not have been put in place appropriately, let’s assume they have been put in place and people are not doing as suggested, well, it goes back to a proper audit procedure in holding people accountable. If you have the audit process in place where it’s open communication when building the 5S team and you’re getting input for those from those folks, maybe you need to change the way things were being done before and that’s why they’re doing things their own way. There may be good ideas there and it’s always continuous improvement after all. So we have to hold people accountable to the standards that are set. If the standards need to be changed and everybody’s in agreement, then we change them.