Visuality at J&J’s PSGA Manati

Operations Excellence Leader and Master Black Belt Giselle Rodriguez describes how Visual methods are helping her site and its teams on their journey to operational excellence.

By Giselle Rodriguez, Operations Excellence Leader and Master Black Belt, J&J PSGA, Manati, Puerto Rico

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Through its Process Excellence program, Johnson & Johnson established a foundation for operational excellence, globally and throughout the corporation, with roots in Visuality and Lean principles. Each site implements its own strategy, based on unique plant needs, using 5S, error proofing, and OEE (overall equipment effectiveness) concepts, as well as Lean and Six Sigma methodologies. We began our Lean program at Manatí in 1999; like other J&J facilities, our goal is to get as close as we can to true “pull” manufacturing.

On the floor, we typically implement 5S (Box, below) first, because the process makes it so much easier to highlight other problems. We start these initiatives from back to front, beginning with packaging lines, then working through manufacturing. Now that we have implemented 5S at our manufacturing facilities, we’re rolling it out at our laboratories. Once this process is complete, we’ll go on to Value Stream Mapping (VSM). But the first, essential step is getting everyone excited about establishing a Visual workplace through 5S.

5S 101

5S has typically been translated from Japanese as: Sort (Seiri), Set in order (Seiton), Shine (Seiso), Standardize (Seiketsu) and Sustain (Shitsuke). A more helpful definition might be:
  • S1: Sort Through/Get rid of the junk

  • S2: Shine/Make it clean (and look for ways to prevent dirt)

  • S3: Secure Safety/Make it safe (and look for ways to prevent risk).

  • S4: Select Locations/ Implement smart placement based on an accelerated flow.

  • S5: Set locations/Install automatic recoil — the Visual "where" — through borders, home addresses and ID labels.
The key to succeeding with 5S and Visual principles is realizing that they cannot be implemented everywhere, or overnight. It’s critical to determine how much can be done without interrupting the normal work flow, so the first step is defining what’s important for the business and identifying the critical work centers that would benefit most from the efforts. It’s best to move slowly, with one or two projects. People involved in these projects will create an atmosphere of change and excitement that is contagious and will quickly spread throughout the organization.

It took roughly three years to develop an overall Visual and Lean strategy at Manati. It’s important to realize that, in order to succeed, leadership and training are required, and training will have to cover all aspects of the program, from forming teams to developing checklists and a format for recording training, all of which take time.

Implementation also takes time and resources. Any 5S program will require funding for overtime, and managers have to learn to be quiet and truly listen to operations staff. They can’t simply dictate or impose what they want done. Picking the right battles is critical. If I want green and the operations staff wants yellow, I’ll usually let them have yellow. Consistency is key.

At J&J, we’ve built a culture where we insist that people not simply accept something “because I say so.” If I come up with a suggestion and anyone on the floor disagrees, they have to explain why. And I have to listen. If they make their point coherently, I have to admit when they’re right.

Patience the key

The full impact of 5S isn’t always visible immediately, which may be why some companies have resisted it, or abandoned their efforts mid-stream. But given time, 5S changes the entire tone of the workplace so that people just feel better about coming to work.

Starting with the first S, “Set in Order,” is best. The work area will look better and be easier to clean. It also strengthens the impression of compliance, conveying a message that the workforce has control over its area. Other issues then begin to fall into place.

For 5S, we let employees come up with their own ideas. They worked on Saturdays to do this, buying the materials and building the solutions themselves. In one case, spare parts had been stored in a common cabinet, so that operators or mechanics had to search, drawer by drawer and part by part, for what they needed. Now there’s a box containing all the change parts, and each part is placed on its own “form,” molded to conform to the exact shape of that part, in its own labeled drawer.

With the forms, if the part’s missing, it’s obvious right away, while the wrong tool won’t fit in the wrong mold. Also, instead of putting tools “straight” into these forms, they’ve been placed at a 20- to 30-degree angle so that they can be removed easily. These steps may not sound like much, individually, but they add up to significant time savings.


Of course, as the Visual work progresses, and 5S and other Visual programs are integrated with Lean, DMAIC and OEE, hard data will allow success to be monitored. Output will also increase, as unnecessary motion around work areas is minimized. But even before that, positive change is usually seen in workers’ faces, which are more relaxed and reflect a less stressful work environment. We implemented OEE first, then 5S, but other sequences are possible; in some cases, both can be done together.

We’ve developed a training module for everyone involved in our 5S programs, including a radar chart that measures each person’s success. People monitor themselves, and the entire team knows that its members are continuously reporting results.

Once a 5S program is well established for a specific line undergoing Lean, we move on to VSM, to identify opportunities for improvement. A cross-functional group of stakeholders examines the process and identifies opportunities for improvement, which are written down and placed in a “job jar.” They are then prioritized using a matrix that ranks suggestions based on their potential impact and how easy they are to implement.

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