Lean Cleaning – New Ways of Working

Lean Cleaning – New Ways of Working

Lean Cleaning and Team Cleaning

Introducing ‘5S’

Known as 5S this comes from the Japanese Kaizen in Gemba system of working and it’s ideally suited to the cleaning industry if it’s applied as it should be. The lean concept has been used in manufacturing for a number of years and is now beginning to find application in other industries, including the cleaning industry. However it seems to be being promoted and often misunderstood as a way of saving money by not needing to employ so many people.

The basic idea of 5S is the following:

  1. Seiri – Sort: removing everything out of the work area which is not needed or is waste
  2. Seiton – Set in order: putting the workplace in good order: you know where everything is
  3. Seiso – Improving the appearance by cleaning up everywhere in the workplace
  4. Seiketsu – Establishing best practice and standards and then documenting these
  5. Shitsuke – Establishing self discipline among the worker enough to use established best practice methods

Which is exactly how a clean should be conducted

It’s easy to see what the end result should be: a smooth flowing operation through a well-ordered workplace. But for it to succeed you will need to look much further into the reasons for 5S, and that is all about bringing about change and efficiency into the workplace, documenting the change and valuing the actual producers of the wealth of the business. It is not a quick and easy way of getting rid of excess workers and loading the extra work onto the ones still working there. For the cleaning industry as a whole, change is badly needed and new systems of work, remaining true to the spirit of Kaizen, not just the 5S, is the way for it to go.

What really is lean cleaning? 

Lean cleaning concepts start with looking at how the work is to be conducted in the area so you should ask yourself the following:

  • Are the cleaners trained in the actual cleaning work and not just in health and safety procedures?
  • How well is the cleaning team integrated? Do you really practice team cleaning or does it split up after an hour or so?
  • How much interest is the managing director taking in the cleaners and the cleaning? You need total input from management as a priority, for it to work.
  • To properly operate 5S as lean cleaning everyone needs to be trained in cleaning best practice. Its no use taking on untrained cleaners and expecting them to fall in with the work requirements without any training. This will also apply to the sales staff. To really look at the principles of Kaizen (which is what 5S is part of) you need to consider that the cleaners as value producers are more important to the business than the accountants or the office staff. To western business management that is almost heresy and it is certainly so in many of the larger cleaning companies and agencies. Of course if people really bothered to understand what cleaning is about then there wouldn’t be a problem would there!

What is best practice in cleaning and how does it work?

There are ways of cleaning and then there are ways of cleaning. Best practice is what the cleaners should know but frequently don’t let alone apply it. It’s the way of the professional who knows exactly what to do and what to use to get the job done rapidly and cleanly to exceed the requirements of the job. After all it’s as professional a job as any and often more so, especially when you get into the more difficult aspects of cleaning of which there are many. However with cleaning you usually only get one chance to get it right – it’s either clean or it isn’t. Best practice gets it right every time, yet it isn’t difficult. It takes a little learning because the science basis behind it – although the science isn’t difficult, it takes some.

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