I visited a shop recently that had flirted with the idea of renaming its 5S program "6S," because the shop wanted to add safety to the list. The program was ultimately named "5S + safety," but the matter got me thinking.
Most shops now know of 5S, a method of organizing the shop for lean production. Though definitions differ, one popular definition says the five terms are sort, set in order, shine, standardize and sustain. But how many other S's are there that might contribute to a shop's success? It turns out there are quite a few, such as . . .
Stress. Yes, stress. You never really know what you can do until the pressure is on. Admit it: Some of your greatest accomplishments have been helped along by fear.
Synchronization. Do all of the sorting and setting in order you want—you still need everything to come together according to a certain timetable. For example . . .
Shipments. You'll need these to arrive on time. The effort to organize your shop is useless unless your suppliers are pretty well organized, too.
Strokes of good fortune. "Oh, come on," you might say. "That one only starts with an S because of the way you phrased it!" To which I would reply: Hey, if "set in order" makes the cut, then so does this one.
Sweet talk. Try flattering your customers. It couldn't hurt.
Savoir-faire. Maybe they'll give you more business if they think you're classy.
And the most useful S of all: $
I do have a point. 5S and other topics related to lean manufacturing are all important; that's why we talk about them so much. But the sum of all of the attention given to these topics tends to carry an unfortunate implication. There is the sense that just cleaving to the right production ideal—just realizing some truer and purer state of leanness, for example—is both the requirement and the guarantee of manufacturing success today.
In reality, it's not that simple. There are more routes to success than this, and none of the routes is straight. While the lean shop might not ever get there, even a fat shop might make it.
The various shop management principles include many that are worth your attention, but keep in mind that all of these principles are general. Yours is a specific shop. Your own success might involve some special S (or T, U or V) that no other shop would have thought to consider.