Before organizations can really work on process improvement programs like Lean and Six Sigma, it is required that a proper foundation is put in place. This foundation consists of a proper and organized work environment, reliable equipment and Standardized Work (clear procedures and work instructions). This foundation guarantees a solid base for all future improvement initiatives and programs.
In this phase it is important to define the standards that are expected in a working environment. The type of working environment is independent. The same questions can be asked in industry, government, construction, healthcare etc. Each department should be able to determine standards for quality and delivery based on its customer requirements. ‘Quality Management Systems’ (QMS), like ISO 9001, deal with the organizational objectives and the procedures that have been put in place.
One of the most applied methods to create the foundation is called ‘5S’. The 5S program is about good housekeeping and is a structured manner to set up a proper and safe work environment. Setting up a 5S program can be done in any type of organization and is independent to the sector. Setting up a 5S program will be explained in more detail in section .
It is very important to realize that each of the mentioned elements requires continuous attention and effort. Even when working on tools from a higher maturity level, it means that working on the fundamental tools is still important to sustain good results at a higher maturity level and prevent deterioration of the foundation. Proper maintenance of tooling and equipment is important as well to create a solid foundation. A comprehensive maintenance program is called ‘Total Productive Maintenance’ (TPM). The first elements of TPM fit very well in Level-I and II, but implementing the full TPM program fits better to Level-III.