Sharing of 5S Implementation Know-How

Create a Mechanism that Allows and Encourages the Sharing of 5S Implementation Know-How

I was recently touring a fantastic factory in Japan called Richo Unitecho and was delighted to find an organization that has successfully implemented a complete collaboration of 5S Ideas. They did this by finding ways to integrated some of the known tools of Lean into a knowledge management system. While all of us are challenged with how we should share knowledge and collaborate with each other over time, Richo Unitecho developed a very successful solution for their business – they commit to a number of organizational structural issues as well as beautifully integrate technology.

From a structural level, no employee solves a problem alone. They have to work in teams of three people – this is a must. Next they craft an idea. This the integral factor in the organization and generation of an idea. No original idea is “set in stone”, it is only crafted. With this mentality no one presents a finished idea to their team. They only craft the idea, and from there the entire team develops and molds the idea into the final form. This provides a platform to build the idea together into one that will be finalized and adopted by the team and department. So the structure of team work is first and foremost the most important idea for collaboration.

Next they use two traditional tools of 5S:

Idea Suggestion Sheet for 5S
They use the idea suggestion sheet to expose the problem and help the team keep track of opportunities.
5S Public Information Board
This board is used not as a board for all ideas but as a banner of celebration of the best ideas of Richo Unitecho, and for all employees to learn that good ideas get recognized and are important to the company and to managers.

What I found empowering and innovative was the company’s utilization of modern technology to develop their knowledge sharing. It had two components; 1) the reporting and measuring functions of 5S ideas, and 2) the searchability of the solutions. The reporting was powerful because they found a way to provide measurements of abstract concepts like “sharing of ideas” or “collaboration of teams”. How many of us as managers have found ways to measure and find accountability for idea sharing and the collaboration of teams at the knowledge level? Most of us have not. Therefore it is encouraging to see this kind of quantitative sophistication.

Secondly, they have found a way to categorize and index the ideas and images of the ideas into a library and resource for the business. I equate this to the new modern practice on and where they are doing “live searches”. Live searches work by starting to show you a predicted interested based on the search engines indexing of the databases as you begin to type into the search field. Well Richo has done the same with its database of ideas, which allow others to learn and gain knowledge without being active in the specific problem solving process of every problem at the business. This is powerful and all businesses should strive to replicate this concept.

Finally, Richo Unitecho has also not abandoned the value of visiting each others work areas and departments. I think the real value is not in the ideas to be shared, this is already complete with their idea sharing IT solution, the real value is having a sense of community and common goals and objectives. The touring and visiting of teams promotes much more meaningful sharing of continuous improvement know-how. Tension will rise for those workers who are being welcomed by their colleagues from another workplace for a tour and, for that, they will be inspired to work harder at achieving 5S benefits in their own workplace.

– Collin McLoughlin

President, Enna