Six Sigma is a “lean production” business tool that can help cleaning operations clean better and raise quality, while saving time and money.
Six Sigma’s “Five Ss” or “5Ss” are:
The 5S process or step system began in Japan (the 5Ss are English counterparts to Japanese words) as a way for teams to drive incremental improvement in work process, with a focus on removing and keeping waste out of programs.
Below is how to apply 5S to cleaning operations. The 5S steps are best taken in order, as one builds upon another. (5S is a verb in this context, and you will likely need to “5S your system” on a regular basis.)
Accompanied by an experienced staff member, a knowledgeable distributor, and/or a CIMS ICE-Certified, CITS ACT-Certified, or PC4HS-trained instructor (see “Useful Resources”), take inventory of all cleaning equipment and supplies in and out of the custodial closet, determine what is essential for the work, sort it by function, then mark anything superfluous with a red tag or other ID.
Sort items for elimination from the system, return items to the proper department, properly dispose of unneeded chemicals, donate or sell unused or obsolete equipment, etc.
The rule, “a place for everything and everything in its place” applies. Make sure there is a place for every essential tool (think of a “shadow board” marking tool storage spots) and see that the cleaning equipment, tools or supplies are there in their proper place when needed.
As John Walker of (OS1) says, “You can’t clean with dirty tools” – so clean, clean, clean to be sure your equipment, supplies, uniforms (and attitudes) are as spotless as you can practically make them.
Clean equipment also increases the safety factor, as problems are often easier to detect when tool surfaces are clean.
Standardize your process (e.g., per PC4HS), training (e.g., per CITS) and toolset (this overlaps with #1, Sort) as this is the only way to make your program measurable, consistent, and “improvable.”
Follow the guidelines for Sustainability advocated for by CIMS-GB, The Ashkin Group, and Healthy Schools Campaign, among others, then work at other “Sustainability” elements (those enabling your program to continue its funding) by using schedules and systems applying 5S to make your cleaning program one that is continuously improved, cost-effective and solidly-supported.