• Joe Rizzo. Director of the New England Lean

How to Quick Start Your 5S Program

Derek Volk, President of Volk Packaging Corporation in Biddeford, ME, got a visit from a former employee who talked with Derek about several improving ideas he had while working at Volk Packaging. Derek became intrigued by the concept that if this employee had all these ideas, wouldn’t all the other employees have just as many improving ideas, if not more, than this former employee?

Derek began to formulate a program that would tap into the ingenuity and creativity of his employees. He developed the “5S Challenge” for his company. The key points of the program were as follows:

  • Break the workforce into teams, by area or equipment. Derek created three teams in the office areas and eleven teams in Manufacturing. The teams consisted of four to six people and included second shift people.

  • Derek Volk came in on a Saturday and took BEFORE pictures of each area.

  • Derek made 3-ring notebooks for each of the teams

  • The notebooks contained information on 5S and the BEFORE pictures for each area.

  • Each team was allowed to spend up to $250 for their area

  • Each team could call on the Maintenance Department 3 times to make fixtures, racks, etc for their area

  • The teams were given eight weeks to complete their 5S efforts

  • Derek Volk invited three, non-Volk people to come into Volk and judge each area

  • The judges had a score sheet with the categories of

  • Sort

  • Set in Order

  • Shine

  • Improvement

  • Comments

  • The score for each of the first four categories were on a 1 to 10 basis

  • After the judging, the judges met in the conference room and the scores were tallied and the winners identified.

  • The four top scores were declared the winners

  • The winning team received $350 per person, cash. (The winning team also got a day off with pay)

  • The 2nd Place team gets $250 per person.

  • The 3rd place team gets $100 per person

  • The 4th place team gets $50 per person.

The results for each team ranked from impressive to outstanding. Derek took the time to write a letter to the employees, thanking them for the great job that everyone did. Some excerpts from the letter are below.

“Before I start let me say a big thank you to everyone who worked so hard the last 60 days to make the 5S competition such a success. A special thanks to the Maintenance Team and Supervisors for all their support, ideas, hard work and just basic encouragement during this competition. The judges and I were “blown away” by what you accomplished. They were so impressed by the pride you had in your areas, the care you took to make things more efficient, and the passion for your job.

In the words of Joe Curesky from West Rock, who has spent his entire 30+ year career in the box business, “That is the best group of people I have ever met at a box plant, in fact, it is the best group of people I’ve met at any plant.”

The judges all agreed it was extremely difficult to pick winners because everyone clearly worked hard to make their areas better. They also thought it was incredible how proud people were to show them the BEFORE pictures because they did not see one BEFORE picture that looked the same. It seemed like they saw every single BEFORE picture and everyone was remarkably different.”

The judges will be coming back in 6 months to judge how everyone sustained or even improved their workspace and more prizes will be awarded.

Derek went on to outline the impressive results in each of the areas, and to announce the winners.

The effect of the 5S Challenge will go well beyond the sixty days of the contest. The people at Volk now know that they have improving ideas, and that they are respected for those ideas and will be rewarded for their ideas, with respect, with appreciation, with admiration. As a result, their self-esteem will grow every day, knowing that they are a valued employee. Over the many years, the Volk family has demonstrated to each and every employee that they are valued and appreciated. This 5S Challenge reinforced this company value to all the people who work a Volk Packaging.

Read more about the details of this program here

Note: Joe purposely writes controversial articles and expresses strong opinions to stimulate discussion. Joe welcomes feedback, comments, and opposing views to his articles.