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Three S (?) programs

Tim Schultz

I am curious about this thing called "3S".
I have been seeing a lot of reference to 3S on the forum.

I have read a lot of books and articles on lean manufacturing and in every single instance I have seen this referenced as a " FIVE S" program. The 5 Ss are variously described as SWEEP-SORT-SIMPLIFY-STANDARDIZE-SUSTAIN.

What happened to the other two S's?
Did somebody re-invent this concept? Did it get improved? Is it just somehow simpler now? Were all the truly great manufacturers just somehow overthinking this?

Is being concerned with how 5S is parsed just some of that pointy headed intellectualism that needs a healthy dose the KISS principle?

Sustain is, I think, the hardest part of the 5 (3?) S to implement. To standardize the sustain part you need more than just group hugs. The first "sustain" thing we ever did was to wire the chuck key to the drill press so it didn't keep walking off.

Here are a couple of other examples:

We used to have two large chests that lived under the infeed & outfeed of our wide belt sander. The conveyor bed has a 5 inch range of motion. The laws of physics decreed that since these chests were horizontal surfaces shit would get stacked on them.

So one day a guy who worked for me came in to say the conveyor built stopped running. It took about a nano second to realize he'd lowered the conveyor onto a wooden box that held confirmat screws. The box of screws was wedged so tightly between conveyor and chest that we had to take a sawmill and demolish the box to get it loose. Luckily we got off with just a small tear in the rubber conveyor built. We could have lost the whole sander.

We sustained this from happening again by building our storage boxes with slanted tops. This "S" required no kumbaya and works first time, every time, with every body.

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4/11/15       #2: Three S (?) programs ...
Tim Schultz

Here's some more of that pointy headed thinking:

We have a couple scissorlift work benches in the assembly area. Both sides of each bench are identically appointed. You will always find hand tools in the right side drawer and screws in the left drawer. Each screw drawer is identically configured and composed in a way that makes it slightly easier to get the right length screw into the right box.

This was a great system until employee empowerment (this one's for you Mel!) took over. The free thinkers in our shop thought it would make more sense to just grab a box of screws and carry them with you as needed.

While this a great short term solution the little boxes don't usually make it back to the same location. Just like trying to remember where the other guy put the salt shaker, getting a 2˘ screw in your hand shouldn't involve an easter egg hunt.

If anybody else has ideas like this that work for them I would love to see some pics.

View higher quality, full size image (1044 X 802)

4/11/15       #3: Three S (?) programs ...
Gary Balcom


Paul Akers, founder of Fastcap coined this in his book, 2 second lean. Basically while he was in Japan on a lean tour, he saw a company that turned around from the point of bankruptcy through lean. That CEO felt overwhelmed with the 5s's and decided to implement just 3; sweep, sort and standardize every morning. The point is that less is more sometimes and people by nature tend to make things more complicated than they need to be.

The book is a good, fast read. I also like Paul's podcasts on lean

4/11/15       #4: Three S (?) programs ...
tim Schultz

Which of the two S's were overwhelming?

4/12/15       #5: Three S (?) programs ...
Rich Kuban Member

Website: http://closet experts.com

I have followed Paul Akers for awhile now. He started out using 5S. He and his team have been doing it so long and so habitually. They start EVERY workday 3Sing: Sweep, Sort, Standardizing. I believe they consider Simplifying and Standardizing as similar and have combined the two. They have eliminated sustaining because constantly improving is more important than sustaining.
In other words, they have 3Sed 5Sing.

4/12/15       #6: Three S (?) programs ...
Tim Schultz

Thanks Rich & Gary!

I guess simplifying leads to standardization in the same way that water will always follow the simplest path. That certainly is nice because it takes less thinking.

It's hard to argue with continuous improvement because improvement is improvement. If you know you are going to end up with an improvement it would stupid to sustain the status quo.

How does this goal of improvement sustain the improvements you have already have made? Or is sustaining them even important?

Is this the ultimate bottom-up management or are there rules that sustain protocol for making improvements? Can anybody just jump right in and effect improvement if they think it makes sense?

4/12/15       #7: Three S (?) programs ...
Rich Kuban  Member

Website: closetexperts.com

EVERY person in Paul's company participates in lean activities. If you cannot or will not, you will not work at his company. Lean is SOP every person every day at Fast Cap.

Paul and each company member habitually make one improvement every day. They don't sustain improvements, they improve on the improvements. Much like figuring out how to do something, and after completing the task saying I should have done it this way. They assume an improvement will be improved at some time. Frankly, as an outside observer, it is truly incredible to see how much Paul has changed over time in a standardized systematic way.

As Paul would say, it is about being able to see waste. Once you can see the waste all around you, you can work to eliminate it, a little everyday. I suggest you delve into the site below. Start by watching some of the videos in the column on the right. They vary in length to a couple of minutes to over an hour.

The American Innovator

4/12/15       #8: Three S (?) programs ...
JR Rutter

Seems like simplify and sustain just get incorporated into a daily routine as part of the other sweeping, sorting, standardizing activities. They are still there, just not emphasized as discreet activities.

4/12/15       #9: Three S (?) programs ...
Tim Schultz

It's been a while since I have read 'The Toyota Way' by Jeffrey Liker. Two things, however, still stand out from my last reading.

The first was that they were able to develop the entire step by step business plan for rolling out the Prius automobile on one side of a single spaced letter size piece of paper.

Another one was that in the same way they had specific rules for fabricating specific gizmos they also had specific rules for how to change the rules. The people that worked there were not allowed to just change processes on their own.

The Harvard Business Review published an article about fifteen years ago called 'Decoding the DNA of Toyota'. They contrasted western culture of manufacturing with what was happening at Toyota.

They talked about how when a new person was being trained in western shops he would be shown the particular method of the particular guy who was in charge of training. If the training came from someone else the training would be different. At the end of each lesson the newbie was told to give it a try and if he wasn't successful to at least try something.

Implicit here was the statement that being willing to experiment was more important than anything else and consequently the newest person in the company was defacto now in charge of corporate policy.

This particular riff had to do with the impact of variability in the processes. Often times when the workers were empowered to solve problems they would come up with a work around for a problem that the company didn't even know existed. A lot of information about the problem was lost by the time it was discovered by those in charge of process.

What if you added some parameters such as: we want to reduce the number of decisions (opportunities for failure) by half and we want to reduce direct labor costs by half and shorten cycle time (order to ship date) by one third and developing processes that make a brand new worker as effective as an experienced worker for one half of the process minutes?

What method would be best to achieve the above stated targets: Ad hoc, make it up as you go, everybody be creative or formally assigning the project to a team of process engineers?

4/13/15       #10: Three S (?) programs ...
Mark Vierno


I have a few questions so I hope you will let me hijack your thread for a moment.

What do you store in the boxes under the wide belt in/out feed tables?

Do I see the screw bins screwed to the bottom of the drawer to prevent them from “walking” away?

And finally, thank you for starting to post under your real name again. It was getting difficult to follow all of your screen names and I am sure that I missed out on some interesting info, thoughts and discussions because of it.


4/13/15       #11: Three S (?) programs ...
Tim Schultz


To tell you the truth I don't know what is in that box right now. We originally built it to hold shop blankets but those are in a different spot now. We have similar shaped cabinet on the outfeed end that holds bulk screw storage.

Yes, the screw boxes are fastened down to keep them from walking around. As soon as they are portable democracy sets in and you soon cannot predict where to find a screw when you need one.

4/13/15       #12: Three S (?) programs ...
Medium is the Message Member

In an effort to exemplify the true meaning of Lean Manufacturing, 2 of the " Five S" have been eliminated as unnecessary and wasteful.

4/13/15       #13: Three S (?) programs ...
David R Sochar Member

As for getting the screw boxes back into the same place every time, make each box unique so that it will only fit into the drawer/storage one way, one place.

If you make a gridwork, notches can be put into the stationary grid and tabs located on the boxes so they can only fit right there. Color coding the boxes (by row?) can help get one to the general location, and the tabs insure it can only go in the one place - the right place. If this is in a drawer in a path of travel, then one must do it right, and complete, or risk blocking traffic and the public humiliation that should follow.

4/13/15       #14: Three S (?) programs ...
Tim Schultz


So under the 'Fix What Bugs You' paradigm, what happens if one of the brothers decides he likes that approach? If someone's pet project seems to have an abundance of stupid is it better for morale to proceed or intervene?

4/13/15       #15: Three S (?) programs ...
Tim Schultz

In other words, are we all equals but just some of us a little more equal?

4/13/15       #16: Three S (?) programs ...

"Can anybody just jump right in and effect improvement if they think it makes sense?"


Real life example: I've been at this shop for 6 months. I'm a second year apprentice. Most people have been there 10+ years (up to over 20).

There is no system to sort WIP or finished work. It just gets pushed on the floor all over the place. Logisics coordinator looks for things for the workshop. Trucker spends 20-30 minutes in the morning shuffling. Workers have to shuffle to free infeeds/outfeeds of machines. Complete mayhem.

2 weeks in, I started just pushing and condensing. Got met with boatloads of animosity, get asked to stop. I'd say "no way, this system is completely crazy. Just tell me what you need and I'll work it into a system. We can't work like this."

Took a few months for them to a) get use to it b) play ball with it c) participate d) enjoy it.

Now it's in their hands and they are doing good. I started getting told where to put what by the logistics coordinator, with pleasure. I don;t need to run it--I just don't want it in the way.

The difference is phenomenal--we are busier then ever and mostly come in to a somewhat clean shop in the A.M..

Of course-- not enough. But "space as a resource that needs management" is on the table. The decision makers are now doing the things that actually make a real big dent--like getting scrappers in to collect defunct machinery and consultants in to see what we can do with the mezzanine.

This space issue has travelled from bottom up to top down. No superheroes--bunch of minds and mommentum--just a "go" button from the bottom.

4/13/15       #17: Three S (?) programs ...

One of the 8 wastes is "unused employee genius ", so ask the employees how to solve the problem.
There is no one single answer for everything. If you want the bins back in the same place, put a label on the bin and on the place where the bin is supposed to go, yeah just like the salt and pepper shaker. It not only tells you where to put it, its a visual thing and the mind naturally want to move it to where it should go.
You also have to measure it either by time or some other way. If Jimmy wants to change what has been set in place, then we take a look and compare new with the old. If its a better way or an improvement we give them a slap on the back and say good job. If it doesn't we ask them what do they think and if they see that the old way is better we stick with it and give them a compliment for their effort.
The most important thing though is to get the right people on the bus and help them understand what we are trying to accomplish. Sometimes the bus makes stops and people get off to catch another bus. None of this happens without leadership.

4/13/15       #18: Three S (?) programs ...
Tim Schultz


You said: "If you want the bins back in the same place, put a label on the bin and on the place where the bin is supposed to go,........... It not only tells you where to put it, its a visual thing and the mind naturally want to move it to where it should go".

With this strategy you are dependent on consensus to sustain. The real lean people have solved this problem with something called poke-yoka, aka fool proofing. Having a screw to hold the box down means you don't have to hope that "everybody's mind will naturally want to move it where it should go". In this respect poke-yoka makes everybody successful at the highest possible level.

For what it is worth we color coded our hand tools and store them in color coded drawers. You no longer have to look for a tool or spend any extra time to get it or put it away. Our work benches no longer have little puddles of tools and screws that need to be moved before you can use the bench. A clear bench is easier on the mind and is more conducive to humming kumbaya while you work.

4/14/15       #19: Three S (?) programs ...

Tim, did you forget to hug your staff while you were humming kumbaya?

I am just poking fun at you--I know what you mean. Manage it good and everything will follow, right? Maybe you are doing that. Which is awesome if you are, really.

And maybe you're a super nice guy too, so you don't encounter the problems awful people encounter when trying to make humans do what it is that they want them to do.

Solid systems and SOP are the way to go for sure. But what about the next step? The stuff that makes things like Toyota be the vehicle with the least returns of all vehicles? The respect and adoration from costumers?

It's hard to pinpoint a dollar--lots of forgottens along the way. Ground up + top down. The harder I dig, the more sure of it I get.

4/14/15       #20: Three S (?) programs ...
David Waldmann

"...And maybe you're a super nice guy too, so you don't encounter the problems awful people encounter when trying to make humans do what it is that they want them to do."

Hey, Mel - I get the impression you think Tim lives in fantasyland. However, in my experience, people make the difference. There ARE good people out there, and you will assemble a good team of them if:
1. You are willing to look for them.
2. You are willing to admit you made a mistake when you get one that isn't what you thought, and let them go.
3. You are willing to pay enough to attract and retain them.

Of course, someone in your position doesn't have any control in the matter, and it sounds like your boss(es) don't subscribe to the above philosophy. Or they just think it's not worth it. Whatever the case, I'm telling you there are places staffed with substantially quality people.

As others have suggested in the past, you may be working at a place that's not a good fit for you. While it sounds like you have been a huge positive influence on the place, unless true change is effected from the top down eventually either they will get tired of you, or more likely - you will get tired of them. I'm not telling you to leave - I don't know what really goes on there day by day. I'm just saying, don't be surprised when you wake up one morning and think "What am I doing working there?!!".

4/15/15       #21: Three S (?) programs ...


Totally agreed that people make the place. Works for every aspect of life--one of my first appartments was a sh-box, but we sure had fun there.

I should probably mention that my guys are the only ones in town... lol. But also half the people there are completely worth the effort. And converting the reticent is easy and awesome :)

A few more steps... getting there.

Wait--where do you actually live, Tim? I think it's Seattle. Careful, I'm 1 1/2 hour drive away-- I might come down there and really, really, annoy you in person one day ;)

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