The Lean 5S Audit Process

The three purposes of conducting regular reviews are:

  • Review compliance to the 5S standards for your factory
  • Note and address non-compliance – to fix what is wrong!
  • Provide a formal opportunity to suggest improvements
The audit process

Conducting a 5S Follow-up

Plan for the audit by dividing the workplace into various areas, probably the same ones where different teams conducted the various 5S stages. Make a checklist for each area, based on the standards that were set during 5S.

You also need the list of known problems in each area. From the initial 5S sweep, this may include:

  • Machines needing repair
  • Tool racks
  • Signage on tool racks or cabinets or storage shelves; warning signs; "keep clear" markings for corridors; or instruction pages
  • Surplus equipment or materials which were not immediately removed

During the audit, there are really only three key tasks:

  • Determine whether known problems have been addressed:
    • Does this machine still leak lubricants?
    • Has the required tool rack been installed in this area? Is it labeled? Is it full? Are tools still left on workbenches?
    • Is the warning sign in place so people will not walk under this crane?
    • Why is this outdated drill press still in the corner?
  • See that standards are being met:
    • Are tools left on workbenches?
    • Is something missing from a tool rack?
    • Is dirt accumulating somewhere?
    • Are existing labels still visible and easily read? (This is especially important for signs that may be obscured by dust, and for lines painted on floors where they can be scuffed)
    • Are there new sounds or smells that indicate that gears are grinding or fluids are leaking?
  • Note what has not yet been standardized – this is the most creative and difficult part, because it may involve seeing what is missing in an area that seems tidy:
    • Why is there no sign over the neat stack of work-in-process materials on that shelf? (How will the next shift know what is there, or what should go there?)
    • Tools that are not yet labeled
    • Is there a limit to how high those barrels can be stacked? Why don't we show that information on the sign for that storage area?
    • Do we need all those cans of wing nuts in this assembly area? How many are used in one day? Should the rest of the month's supply be stored elsewhere?

Safety infractions should also be part of the 5S audit:

  • Are WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System) labels used properly?
  • Are fire exits visible and clear? Are the fire extinguishers charged and inspected on schedule?
  • Are stairs and ladders safe?
  • Do we notice unsafe behavior regarding heights and falls? Climbing a ladder without maintaining three points of contact? Working on a height without the required safety tether?

To follow up on each 5S audit:

  • Write up a work order to deal with each deficiency
  • Update the next check list:
    • Check off what was corrected
    • Add new deficiencies to be reviewed
  • Determine the score:
    • Deduct for each deficiency
    • Add a point for each correction
    • Add a point for each suggestion for improvement
    • If the previous audit had found deficiencies, the goal is to eradicate them
    • The ultimate goal is to regularly achieve zero outstanding deficiencies

How often should audits be performed? Regular audits lead to the best results:

  • Weekly "self-check" audits by teams of workers, reviewing their own areas
    • This might be the best way to generate suggestions for improvements
  • Monthly audits by the area supervisor
    • Ensure that the weekly audits catch any problems with the daily or weekly cleanups
    • Pay special attention to the less-frequent cleaning tasks
    • Try to notice what is missing: new tools that do not yet have a place in a rack; materials stored neatly but not well-labeled
  • Quarterly audits by the plant manager
    • Ensure that standards are being met
    • If there are deficiencies, ask "why": try to determine the root causes
    • Ensure that resources are allocated to repairs and to making the long-term improvements

Without audits, it is impossible to ensure compliance.

By Oskar Olofsson, author of the book "Succeeding with 5S"

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