While the benefits of a fully integrated 5S system are almost universally acknowledged amongst business owners and managers, making such a drastic procedural and philosophical switch can prove quite difficult.  People can adjust to just about anything, and often accept the mess around them.  This is most frequently evident in individual’s personal spaces like closets or desks, where they claim that, despite the disorder, they know where everything is.  Successful 5S implementation requires moving away from this, and other, inefficient mentalities.  Here are five tips to help the transition.

1) Treat Employees As Individuals

Countless hours of time can be saved by standardizing each individual’s job, but it is important to recognize employees as agents of change not human machines.  By emphasizing each employee’s ability to be heard and the importance of their feedback, individuals will become more likely to buy into the 5S system.  Taking the time to answer and address each employee’s individual concerns will also pay huge dividends in the long run, as understanding the system fully will help them see the benefits.  It is recommended to view the employees as customers that one wants to buy into the system, not replaceable entities that can be fired if they meet the system with hesitancy.

 2) Prove The Benefits

Showing individuals the benefits of a 5S will always be more effective than telling them, so employers are advised to begin by choosing a pilot area to implement a 5S system.  Taking the time to train and inform everyone in the pilot area is crucial to demonstrating the success of the system to the rest of one’s employees, as is choosing a pilot program with a high probability of success.  Involving positive workers, who are more likely to buy into the 5S system, can also help the pilot program succeed.

3) One Foot In Front Of The Other, Then Repeat

It is generally not wise to jump straight from a pilot program to a business wide implementation, no matter how well the pilot program was received.  Instead it is better to promote the success of the pilot program, while implementing 5S into another area of the business.  This works on two levels, as the pilot program shows physical benefits, and each implementation leaves an employer more capable of addressing their employee’s questions and concerns.

4) Don’t DIY

Showing employees the results of successful 5S implementation will only provide partial proof of the system’s effectiveness.  Ultimately each individual needs to experience the improvements for themselves to completely buy into such a drastic change.  For this reason it is crucial that employers and managers do not jump in and do the work themselves when participation is low.  Employers who take such measures are only demonstrating to their employees that they are not required to buy into the system, and that someone else will do the work for them if they hold out long enough.

5)      Be Patient

5S implementation is going to take time, and low initial participation is in no way a reflection of an employer’s effectiveness.  The initial goal should always be education, which will not immediately yield any tangible results.  5S is about maximizing productivity and efficiency for years to come, not just producing a single event that causes employees to immediately return to their old ways.  Even the smallest improvements, fully integrated, will greatly benefit the business through the time and money saved.  Each of these improvements will become a testament to the benefits of a 5S system, and these successes will eventually snowball into a fully integrated 5S system.