This month’s first question

I’m looking for advice about how best to implement a 5S strategy in a manufacturing environment. My organization attempted this years ago, but the effort slowly fell to the wayside. I have been tasked with trying to implement another 5S program, but I want to get everyone on board so it is successful. Any advice?

Our response

The success of any program depends on an approach that considers not only management but also the employees responsible for implementing the change.

From a management perspective, a clear framework and guidelines must be set (a top-down approach). For the employees involved in making the changes, the program guidelines and framework should translate into meaningful actions with sufficient motivation (a bottom-up approach).

Here, in no particular order, are a few practical ideas to consider:

  • Define the goals of the 5S program, such as reduce costs, reduce clutter, improve working environment, increase efficiency and instill a sense of pride. Management should receive these goals as part of its key performance objectives for the year.
  • Define clear time frames, such as, "by the end of the first quarter we will reduce X by Y%," and "by the end of the second quarter we will reduce Z by P%." Assign each change a dollar value. 
  • Consult with shop employees and divide the shop floor into sectors. Assign a 5S leader to each sector and allow the leaders to choose their improvement teams, but ensure that the team sizes are appropriate.
  • Define meaningful and manageable chunks of work for each team, and measure performance against the objective at the end of each quarter.
  • Make the 5S program into a friendly competition between teams. Each quarter, award tangible prizes to the top three teams and consolation prizes for the others.
  • Every team member should contribute to the 5S effort. Develop a 5S checklist and post it in all workplaces. Each team leader also should post the aggregate scores of his or her team.
  • Every month, team leaders should present the changes they have implemented. This way, each team can see the changes and strategies other teams enacted and showcase the changes they have made, instilling pride in their achievements.
  • Appoint a 5S champion to coach and mentor the various teams. The 5S champion also should be responsible for auditing the scores derived earlier. 
  • Develop an incentive plan for   the best performing team and celebrate with fanfare. 
  • All team members should receive at least a day’s worth of official training from an accredited institute. This training should be included as part of the employees’ yearly training and development plans. Also plan an annual refresher course with possible industry-recognized certification after a certain number of modules are finished.
  • During the 5S rollout, ensure that every shop floor employee is invited. Distribute t-shirts or caps with a logo for the 5S project and display them prominently.
  • Visualize successes by displaying before and after pictures.
  • Ideally, also involve office employees in the 5S program so that unused files, furniture and equipment can be effectively removed.
  • Set aside about four hours every two weeks for mandatory 5S activities. Everyone must stop what they are doing to clean up.
  • Ensure that you set up enough waste disposal containers. Dedicate garbage bins to paper, cardboard, wood, metal and grease, for example. Have large unused or broken equipment removed and ensure that all discarded items are removed quickly.

This response was written by Narahari Rao, business process architect, Schlumberger, Houston.

This month’s second question

What is the difference between quality assurance and quality control?

Our response

Let’s start by defining the terms. ISO 9000:2015—Quality management systems—Fundamentals and vocabulary defines the terms as follows:

  • Quality assurance is the "part of quality management focused on providing confidence that quality requirements will be fulfilled."1
  • Quality control is the "part of quality management focused on fulfilling quality requirements."2

Upon reviewing the definitions, there is one key difference in the statements: The definition of "quality assurance" contains the phrase "providing confidence."

But what does that mean? Assurance that the procedure or process will produce results that consistently meet regulatory and statutory compliance, or the customer’s expectations of the product or service. Typically, that means preventing defects or nonconformances, or implementing an improvement opportunity, such as:

  • Procedures or processes that support a quality management system (QMS).
  • Procedures or processes that support the creation of a customer product or service.
  • Validating these procedures and processes.
  • Ongoing monitoring and correction of these procedures and processes.

Quality control, on the other hand, is the ability to detect whether the procedure or process conforms to the requirements through an inspection process, such as measurement and testing. These inspection processes are established at key points in the process to determine whether the process output meets the established requirements. Examples include:

  • Inspecting incoming raw material.
  • In-process testing.
  • Reviewing documents for completion and accuracy.
  • Reviewing and approving quality system records.

It may be easier to identify a quality control activity than a quality assurance activity. Quality control is a measurement taken at a specific moment in time to determine adherence to requirements—whether regulatory, statutory or customer-specific—and quality assurance is all other QMS activities. When in doubt, ask yourself: "What am I measuring?" If the answer to whether it meets compliance is "yes" or "no," then it is quality control activity.


  1. International Organization for Standardization (ISO), ISO 9000:2015—Quality management systems—Fundamentals and vocabulary, subclause 3.3.6.
  2. Ibid, subclause 3.3.7.

This response was written by Tiea Theurer, lead auditor, TÜV Rheinland, Newark, DE.

How best to implement a 5S:
Very profound article on 5S implementation strategy. I find it very difficult to "Assign each change a dollar value" that is meaningful & True to top management unless the organization designs a template to make the calculus.
--C. Neves, 05-16-2018

I find it interesting that the domain of software is the only one (that I know of) which uses the term QA to describe organizations and people who do what every other domain calls QC. That is, people who test software (perform QC activities) work in departments called Quality Assurance and generally have no involvement in assurance at all. Don't know the history of how this has happened, but it is strange. I do know that in many non-engineering-based companies, when you ask who is responsible for software quality you get the answer "the QA department." This is changing slowly with the infusion of Agile ideas into software development since the Agile approach makes it clear that assuring quality is the job (mainly) of those who create the software since they deliver it to testing (or the customer) with the defects already there.
--Scott P Duncan, 04-18-2018

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