How to Implement Lean Manufacturing: Straighten and See (5S) – Part 5

We’ve been talking about implementing Straighten and See and, in our last post, we listed three elements:

  1. Establishing a marked and labeled home address for everything!
  2. Marking equipment and machinery so that it’s easy to operate and/or monitor safely.
  3. Establishing easy to see information about work station performance and activity.

In that post, we covered the first element in detail.  Let’s look at that second element in this post.

5S example 6
This equipment is easier to maintain and easier to operate because of the many visual cues.

Marking equipment and machinery so that it’s easy to operate and/or monitor safely.

Take a look at this piece of equipment.  It’s a boiler…I think.  And yet, there is a good deal I know about this piece of equipment just by looking at the visual cues. First, of course, you’ll notice how clean it is.  Then, see those gages?  I know what the safe operating range of…whatever those gages are measuring is.  There’s some yellow and black safety tape that draws my attention to the duct that impedes on a travelway.  I’m not sure about the other visuals, to tell the truth, because I found this on another website.  But, it’s clear that a 2-minute orientation would teach me all I need to know (assuming I wasn’t going to be working on it as a millwright).

Most of the machinery and equipment in most plants don’t look anything like this with respect to visuals.  Why, then, is it important to have all the equipment marked and labeled?

First and foremost, of course, there is safety.  Every thing related to safety with respect to each machine, from the Emergency Stop button to pinch points to where the nearest fire extinguisher can be found,  must be made clearly visual.  Second, there is simple orderliness.  If a new employee were directed to “Go check the gauges on Boiler #5,” would he or she even know where to go?  Third, important work instructions and standards can often be made visual.  Does this lever raise or lower the bed?  Which way does this tool head move if I turn this wheel clockwise?  How much to I have to turn this dial to raise the heat 200 degrees?  Fourth, visual cues can help me determine whether the machine is operating correctly within specifications.  See how the gages in the picture above are configured so that an operator can easitly tell, even from a distance, that the equipment is in control (green) or not (red).

The decisions as to exactly what visuals are appropriate for what machines and equipment are best left to those who will be operating, maintaining, and supervising the use of the equipment.