If I already have a Lean initiative, how do I evolve to Lean 4.0? This is a question I have received very often and I would first like to justify why it is necessary to make this move. First and foremost is sustainability.

The survival rate of Lean initiatives in all industries is very low and unless you are doing something different from the last time you did it, or you have done a root cause analysis to identify what went wrong last time and are taking specific actions to get it right now, then believe me, it will happen again, it may be soon, or when you move to another area, but it will happen.

That’s one conclusion based on statistics. The other is an economic reason, most Lean implementations consume a lot of effort from a few people only. Such a level of effort cannot be sustained indefinitely unless it is dedicated resources and that by definition, does not add value.

You can’t have dedicated Lean resources. In a good initiative everyone in the company must practice Lean, it is part of their responsibility and those in management roles become the leaders and change agents in their areas of authority.

We should proceed in a similar way to reinforcing the structure of an old building that we want to preserve for historical reasons. That is, we start by reinforcing the foundation. Ensuring that they are solid enough to resist the structure that will be on top and flexible enough to withstand the onslaught of any earthquake that may strike it.

Once the reason for migrating to Lean 4.0 has been established, we can then outline a plan of action that can work regardless of the level of progress we have made in Lean. A good idea, then, is to start Lean 4.0 by introducing technology to the 5Ss.

Yes! 5S’s. Which has the highest mortality rate in the industry. Everyone has gone through an initiative that at one point was in full bloom and then faded away. And that’s precisely the best argument we’ll need to justify a change in tactics.

Let’s reinforce the 5S’s initiative to achieve two things: 1.That it makes a measurable positive contribution to quality, productivity and safety. That it survives the test of time even in scenarios of organizational change and crisis. Why do I consider 5S’s as part of the organization’s foundation? First, because it is an excellent way to contribute to improve the metrics of a work area with the participation of absolutely everyone who works there.

With this initiative, the team begins to practice several dynamics that will be critical later on when the challenges are greater.

Establish rules, or in lean jargon, work standards to keep the area clean, organized and detect anomalies in a timely manner. Practice kaizen, i.e., improve the way 5S’s are done by replacing some rules with better ones or adding new rules.

These 2 dynamics will give the team the skills and experience needed to move forward in strengthening the structure. A solid 5S’s initiative creates a mature, participative and open to change work group. Sustaining a 5S’s initiative is not only a matter of effort or commitment, it takes good planning, participation and follow-up.

If 5S’s have no effect on productivity or quality metrics, we are doing something wrong. If the 5S’s do not help us meet business objectives, sooner or later they will be abandoned. The issue of sustaining the 5S’s is a central issue because this is one of the weaknesses of the improvement initiatives. If the management group is not capable of sustaining the 5S’s they will not be able to sustain anything, they won’t even try, they will just be wasting their time.

The main tool for sustainability is the 5S’s audit. Everyone uses it and everywhere it ends in the same thing, failure. Neither the initiative impacts metrics, nor is it sustainable in the long term. What is going wrong? In my opinion, the audit itself. The fact that the review is done by someone who does not belong to or have responsibility for the performance of the area and that the findings of the failures go straight to a report to be addressed later.

There is no sense of urgency, no commitment to discipline. What would be a better way? Recognizing that the responsibility for following the established rules rests with the entire team, starting with the leadership. The responsibility for doing the audits does not lie with someone external, but with the area leaders, the line manager, their supervisor and their manager.

The things to verify and the frequency with which this verification must be done must be formalized in their «standard work for leader» and must be executed in the Gemba tours, understood as individual exercises that the leader strictly follows.

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