What Can 5S and Best Methods Do For You?

By Ben McCombs
Industrial Engineer, Logile, Inc.

So you walk through the front door and are struck, almost immediately! Swept left by the heavenly scent of warm cinnamon rolls being pulled out of bakery ovens. It is 9:30 a.m. – the perfect time for a midmorning snack. As you move past the showcase of cookies, cakes, breads and fruit pies that sweet icing smell becomes overwhelming. Suddenly your appetite has a craving for warm gooey indulgence. Smiling faces greet you at the service counter and all seems perfect in the world.

Seems – that is a powerful word. Beyond the magic of freshly baked rolls and cookies, does your mind ever stop to think what’s happening behind the scenes? How exactly do these delicious cinnamon rolls come to life? Sure, you can glance in and gather a snapshot of life in the bakery department of a grocery store, but do you ever stop to really embrace the roles? An hour, a day, a week in their shoes and what it takes to deliver on this experience you are in? The expectations versus the reality of what needs to occur for everything to come together as planned? Welcome to the world of 5-S and Best Methods.

Let’s start with a heavy hitter – you yourself are an associate now in this bakery department and are only five steps in and can see underneath the display case. Somewhere beneath the piles of doughnut boxes, wax papers, green ties, price stickers, display stands and order forms lies the gloves and hairnet you need to safely move about the prep area. You notice a stack of cookie containers overflowing and several have fallen to the floor. The scale and wrapper is inconveniently placed at the far end of bakery service counter, thus every time a sale is made you observe another bakery associate leaving the customer and walking well out of their way. The associate returns and the customer kindly asks if she can have her loaf of Italian bread sliced, so the associate walks to the other side of the department now, to turn on the slicer. It seems the cinnamon roll smell is getting some attention, because a line starts forming at the service counter. Twenty seconds go by before the loaf finds its way back into the bag. Sadly all you can do is apologize to the customer for their wait. What does this all mean? Does it mean anything at all?

What if you could change everything? What if you could study the demands of customers? What if you could understand movement, coordination, and optimize the flow throughout the entire department?

Well, then you could set yourself up for success. All the equipment, all the supplies, carts, racks and products organized into the best possible layout. Wasted steps, wasted movement, wasted search-time would all be eliminated. The bakery associate only walking 1 step to the scale and wrapper now. The path to the bread slicer within a mere few steps. And just like that, you’ve saved time and money.

5-S and Best Methods preach the never-ending importance of workplace flow and organization, imparting the mantra of ‘a place for everything and everything in its place.’ Not only is this a proven time saver, which ultimately saves money, it removes barriers associates face to doing their job and creates an uplifting environment to work in.

So you’ve done it – clean sweep, a new look, new supplies, removing the unneeded steps and labeling the final setup. Now is the time for an even bigger challenge – maintaining all of that hard work. Sustaining change is never easy. The disciplines of 5-S and Best Methods are a cultural movement that needs to be embraced by all. Critical to lasting success is your organization’s ability to keep improvements in place and recognize that the workplace is always changing. Evolve and adapt to each situation.

That is what 5-S and Best Methods are all about. It’s a fast-paced world that we live in. The moment that you start feeling comfortable is the same moment that your competitors will find a way to do it faster and more efficiently. Don’t play catch up – be the leader. Be the innovator.