• Angie Leamon

Using Lean Methodologies When Implementing Your Infectious Disease Plan

Angela Leamon is the Director of Operational Excellence and is a manufacturing leadership professional with over 24 years of manufacturing experience, driving continuous improvement opportunities by reducing process variability and cycle time through Six Sigma and Lean methodologies. She is an ASQ certified Black Belt.


5S Practices for your Business to Fight the Coronavirus


Sorry boss, I couldn’t find my PPE.


I’m hearing the collective groan of managers everywhere. During my twenty plus year career as a manager, there was one issue that was often the most heated topic of conversation and the one that got the most airplay. The issue was regarding employees wearing their required personal protective equipment, or PPE. I’ve learned some valuable lessons on how leaders can help their employees follow the guidelines. This issue can be improved by focusing on three important concepts.

The first concept; being a leader is more than having the title, it is being the example. Even when it is inconvenient. Early in my career as a production manager at Maytag, the PPE guidelines depended on what type of material the employee was handling. The requirements ranged from no PPE required to what we termed full PPE. The full PPE included gloves, wrist bands and armguards. My director gave his staff our guidelines; if we touched a part, any part, we were required to wear the full PPE. I had employees laugh at me when I put on the full PPE to pick up a plastic knob. They often said, “No one will know if you don’t put on PPE” or “That’s stupid, why would you put all that on just to touch a piece of plastic?” My response always and consistently was, that the guidelines for my role was to wear the full PPE. If I couldn’t follow my guidelines, then how could I ask my employees to follow theirs? Once the employees saw the consistent behavior of following the guidelines, no matter how inconvenient or time consuming, the expectation was set. Be the example. Every day.

The second concept is to empower your employees to hold each other accountable. If compliance only occurs in front of managers or the Safety and Health leader, then compliance is really not there. All employees, regardless of title, should be encouraged to remind each other to follow the safety guidelines. PPE is a great place to start to build this culture. In the end, you will have a team that holds each other accountable to follow the safety guidelines. Now, I know this is easy to say, and achieving it is harder. You can start by teaching your employees how to address individuals who are not following the guidelines. Give them the words to say, “Hey, I don’t want you to get sick or hurt, please properly wear your PPE” or “I’ll wait for you to get your PPE on before we get started”. It’s all about the culture when the boss is not looking.

The third concept is to make supplies visible and accessible. Logically, your employees will not wear PPE if they cannot find it. With the new and sometimes changing PPE requirements of the pandemic, it can be confusing. The 5S principles you learned from Lean Manufacturing can make a difference as you set up PPE supply stations.

Sort: Reduce time an employee looks for the supplies.

House only the required PPE at the station and remove unnecessary items. Utilize signage to communicate the requirements with easy to follow instructions and visuals. When deciding on placement in the facility, look through the eyes of the employee on the logical locations.

Set: Make the workflow smooth and easy for the employee.

Arrange workstations in a way that supplies are easy to find, and missing items are easy to spot. Each item should be labeled and arranged in order according to the required PPE donning process. Don’t forget about used PPE disposal containers for the doffing process.

Shine: The supply station should not only be clean and orderly, but it also should enable detection of abnormalities.

Clean and inspect the stations on a daily basis. Assign responsibility for both tasks and immediately deal with any issues detected.

Standardize: Ensure the first three ‘S’ practices are performed in the same way every time.

Establish procedures, schedules and audits that include all the PPE stations in the facility. Utilize visual controls and examples of the ideal setup to ensure consistency. Review the 5S audits regularly and assign responsibilities for any correction of non-conformances.

Sustain: Ensure the 5S program is maintained.

Show the importance of the 5S program by discussing and reviewing the audits on a set cadence. Employee feedback and involvement is required. All employees, at all levels, have to be accountable for complying. Every day.

Combining these concepts can help leaders in all industries ensure employees are following the PPE guidelines and are some of the first steps in creating a safe and healthy workplace. A leader should always be the example in complying with guidelines, rules or requirements. Empowered employees build the culture that holds each other accountable. 5S is a tool that leaders can use to help enable their employees in their compliance.

Are you needing to stock your PPE stations? Peak Performance has partnered with non-traditional, international suppliers and have secured large quantities of inventory and are excited to provide our PPE Shop to help meet your PPE needs. This provides an avenue for individual businesses to purchase in quantities more suited to their requirements. We are only posting inventory that is on-hand, so if you are looking for an item and it shows out of stock, please be sure to check back later.

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