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13th Edition 

March 2012

In This Issue
Don't Stop at Four - the 5th "S" is Critical
The Four Components of a Successful Lean Construction Implementation
Lean Construction Facilitator Training


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Don't Stop at Four -

the 5th "S" is Critical


By Dennis Sowards


"Shitsuke" is the fifth "S" of the 5S's. It means to make all the 5S changes and improvements part of daily work so it becomes a habit, a way of life. There are various English translations including: self-discipline, discipline and sustain. I will refer to it as self-discipline.


Consider what would happen to the work area after applying the 5S's without self-discipline. Soon the workplace would revert back to its evil ways of chaos and clutter. Unneeded items would stack up again. Tools would be scattered around the area. People might neglect following safety requirements. Workers would lose more time doing treasure hunts. Customers may even become disappointed with the company's disorganized sites, trailer and offices and go elsewhere. We need to maintain the gains made by the 5S's through self-discipline or our efforts will not yield long term benefits.


Self-discipline is never really done, but is being sustained when:

  • The other 4 "S" actions for Sorting, Set-In-Order/Simplifying, Sweeping/Shine and Standardizing/Schedule are followed.
  • All changes made by the 5S's are documented and are followed.
  • There are daily 5S's activity checklists posted and used.
  • The work area is kept neat and clean.

And most important of all, the work (value) flows and treasure hunts are reduced substantially.


Here are some tips in doing the fifth "S" shared by Hiroyuki Hirano, an internationally recognized Lean and 5S guru:

  • We should keep in mind that "money is limited, but wisdom is limitless." We need to use all of the employees' brainpower to solve problems and avoid just spending the company's money.
  • Be polite when addressing others, and always treat people with respect.
  • Wear safety equipment with pride and expect all employees to follow safety requirements.
  • Follow the three "specifics" for the 5S's by clearly indicating what (specific items) go where (specific places) and in what amount (specific amounts).
  • Focus on getting to the source or root cause of any disorder or dirt so we can prevent it from happening.
  • Use a "hands-on" and "here and now" approach. "Hands-on" means go and see what is happening and work through the details of how the process or area should be organized. The "here and now" approach means to deal with problems and deviations from the 5S's plans immediately, not later.
  • Improvement requires effort, and effort requires enthusiasm.
  • If only a few workers are doing the 5S's, the effort will die a slow but sure death.

Good workplaces are made with 5S and destroyed by the lack of 5S. If we allow a work area to revert back to its bad (pre- 5S) ways, it will destroy the organization of the workflow and cause people to lose interest and commitment.


Destroyed By the Lack of 5S 

Work Area Destroyed By the Lack of 5S 


Some useful tools for doing the fifth "S" include a self-audit and the 30-second test. 


The 30-second test is a simpler assessment. It asks the question--can a worker go to a tool box, material storage rack or cabinet and in 30 seconds or less (once he/she reaches the storage area) find what is needed and return to work? If it takes more than 30 seconds, it is not organized as well as possible. This test is especially useful for the new employee who may not know the way things are placed. The tool box, table, cabinet, etc. should be so visually organized that anyone can find what is needed and move on with work. Not only is the desired tool or part easy to find; but it is stocked in sufficient quantity that no one runs out.


Application of the 30 Second Rule

Application of the 30 Second Rule 


Part of creating self-discipline is to redo the other four "S's" periodically. The first time workers sort out what is needed and not needed (the first "S",) there is a tendency to hold back on some items. This is "just-in-case thinking". After seeing all five "S's" working, employees are more willing to let hoarded items go in a second round of sorting. The same applies for the second "S" as workers see the need to better locate and mark frequently used tools and supplies so they can pass the 30-second test.


Another aspect of the fifth "S" is continuous education. When a 5S organized gang box is introduced in the field, there is always the objection that the workers will not put the tools back as visually marked. The workers will throw tools in the box any old way. This is probably true for most workers, but does not have to remain that way. Self-discipline includes training, encouraging, and expecting workers to follow the company's rules.


Children are careless of where they put their books, shoes, and toys. They then do treasure hunts when they need the misplaced item. Workers may act like children if not instructed accordingly. The difference between children and adults is the ability to learn and follow rules. As workers learn the importance of doing the 5S's, they will have less treasure hunts, they will buy-in to the method. Management must set the expectations and be consistent in applying it. Lean thinking can (and must) become a way of life in our companies. Self-discipline is the fifth "S" but there is no last step or saying "we're done" -- it is an ongoing process for improvement.


The real goal of Lean in construction is to provide greater value to the customer and reduce waste. This requires a transformation to a culture that thinks Lean. Applying the 5S's is part of that transformation and needs to be maintained. The self-discipline learned in doing the 5S's will carry over to help make any other Lean activities successful. Don't stop at 4S - keep going with five. 


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Miron Construction Co., Inc.
"I liked it!" Good mix of Lean philosophy and practical Lean content. It hits the mark for a 101 manual for Lean Construction."
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Senior Associate, Boulder Associates, Inc.

 The Four Components of a Successful Lean Construction Implementation


It's not just about the jobsite! 


by Larry Rubrich 


Lean Construction is about eliminating organizational waste to improve the flow of construction information and material throughout the company and jobsite. A better, faster flow of both information and material means construction projects that have higher quality, higher productivity and are delivered with more owner value and shorter project lead times. These results can only be achieved through a successful implementation of Lean Construction as the "operating system" in the organization. This Lean operating system applies to everything an organization does, from RFP to the after the project delivery review.


Lean as an operating system has four components: 

  • Lean Planning--the linking together of the organization's goals with the Lean activities to achieve those goals. This linking is called Policy Deployment.
  • Lean Concepts--eliminating waste to improve the flow of information and material.
  • Lean Tools--the techniques used to eliminate the identified waste.
  • Lean Culture--building a positive working environment foundation.

However, before beginning the four components of the Lean implementation process, an organization's Leadership Team (the top facility manager and their direct reports) starts by asking themselves, "Why do we want to do Lean?" The expected answer is, "To create an organization that works safely, and makes money (the desired business results), while delivering more value to owners than our competitors."


Lean Planning--Beginning with the End in

Mind--Required Business Results


Now that we understand why a Lean implementation is necessary to achieve our organizational goals, the first component--Lean Planning--can be discussed.

 Lean Planning


The commitment to Lean Planning as the first component of Lean ensures Lean will not be used as an add-on or appendage in the organization, but as a system to accomplish the #1 objective--the organization's goals. To do otherwise reduces an organization's opportunity to fully use the power of Lean through the complete participation and involvement of the entire workforce.


Inside of Lean Planning, Policy Deployment is a process by which organizations deploy specific Lean activities/Kaizen Events throughout the organization so that the company's annual goals and strategic out-year goals can be achieved.


Lean Concepts


The component of Lean Concepts, like Lean itself, is simple: it is the elimination of waste to improve the flow of information and material throughout the entire organization and jobsite (the system).


Lean Concepts


Lean Concepts define the eight types of construction waste as:


1. Scrap/Rework/Defects/Reconciliations

2. Transportation-Material or Information Handling

3. Motion

4. Waiting/Delays

5. Inventory

6. Overproduction

7. Overprocessing

8. Underutilized Human Resources


Remember, for an activity to be value added (not waste), it must meet all three of the following criteria:

  • It must change the shape or form of the item. For example, creating an architectural model or installing plumbing fixtures.
  • The owner must care about the activity and be willing to pay for it.
  • The activity must be completed correctly the first time. Owners are unwilling to pay for rework or repair.

Lean Construction Tools


After developing organizational goals using the Lean Planning component, and understanding how wasteful activities prevent the achievement of those goals (Lean Concepts), the discussion can now turn to understanding the Lean Construction Tools. These tools, as shown below, serve two purposes. They identify the waste preventing the organization from reaching its goals and provide a tool for eliminating or reducing the identified waste.


Lean Tools


For example, the Value Stream Mapping (VSM) tool's sole purpose is to identify waste. The remaining tools are then used to eliminate/reduce the waste that was identified in the VSM. If we identified in Lean Concepts that a particular project process was slow and had a long lead time, a VSM would be created to identify where the stoppages, waiting, and delays are occurring. If those delays are related to material or supply outages and shortages, the solution might be to implement the inventory replenishment tool--kanbans--or a variation of this tool--supplier managed inventories. If the delays are related to searching, hunting, and looking for items, files, drawings, or materials, the solution would be to implement the 5S tool.


The Lean Construction Tools area is where most organizations become confused and go off track with their Lean implementation. They think that, by implementing some of the tools, they will have a Lean organization. Skipping Lean Planning and Lean Culture prevents the improvements made by only using the tools from being sustainable.


Lean Culture


The fourth component for implementing Lean is establishing a Lean Culture. Lean, as an organizational system, can only be built on the foundation of a Lean Culture.


Lean Culture


Lean Culture is the component that makes it all happen, the component that musters the organization's most important resource--its people--to create an organizational

"war on wasteful activities."


The only major competitive weapon an organization has is its people. Most organizations do not have a lot of patents or technology that can protect them from their competitors or create barriers to entry into their markets. Generally speaking, it is the organization's people who make the difference.


Developing Lean Culture begins with the development of an organization-wide code of conduct/behavioral expectations during Lean Planning. Because the principles and expectations are developed in Lean Planning by the organization's Leadership Team, these expectations set the framework to be filled in by the following Lean Culture








Every organization has a culture, whether the Leadership Team has guided its development or the culture has developed on its own. Culture can have a positive or negative effect on an organization's performance.




To be successful with Lean, a company must be in balance. It must achieve the correct balance in using Lean Planning, understanding Lean Concepts, using the correct Lean Tools, and empowering its workforce by creating a Lean Culture. However, you must have all four components in process before you can announce that you are truly on the Lean Construction journey.



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This Lean newsletter is the result of the collaboration of three organizations:
Grunau Company
Ted Angelo, Executive Vice President

Quality Support Services, Inc.
Dennis Sowards, President


WCM Associates LLC
Larry Rubrich, President


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  WCM Associates LLC, 2012. All rights reserved.
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