Can 5S survive big data?

5S are meant to be the foundations of operational excellence as no efficient work is imaginable in a messy, dirty and unsuitable-for-quality environment. This is long proven in the “physical world” and until recently transposable into the virtual world of digital information.

In short, 5S is a framework for sorting, organizing, tidying, set housekeeping and behavioral rules and standards and improving operations. This “school of discipline” and its simple techniques yields fine result in business as well as in private life.

Yet with the rise of big data, this theorem may need revision and it may happen that laws governing physical efficiency are no longer true on the digital side.

This is an outline of more to come on the subject

From scarcity to abundance

From the very limited capacities to the sheer endless ones nowadays, data storage is no more a problem, not for storage itself nor for costs that decrease continually. It was once mandatory to manage the scarcity by getting rid of obsolete or non-essential data and files. This is no more necessary, may be just a nice-to-have option!
From necessary discipline to unavoidable chaos

In early times, limited data processing and storage capacities made data management and housekeeping discipline mandatory. With actual features and apps to retrieve old data and manage different versions of documents, the chore is pushed onto IT tools, freeing users from the necessity of order and tidiness.
Worse, the ever-growing flood of new data makes it impossible to spend time managing the flow. The chaos is unavoidable, but don’t worry, technology takes care.

Numerous, messy data is the new ore

Big data is about… big data, meaning very large sets of data of different nature. Data don’t even have to be complete or consistent, technology now knows how to cope with messy data!

More and more companies are making big money exploiting big data, that’s why data are called new ore.

As lean-educated people understood to think in terms of just necessary resources, big data is all the contrary, the more the better. And because more future value is in yet unknown use of data, those will be created, collected and stored with greed and no intention to discard a bit (!). This ore is endlessly usable and recyclable.

Those companies that haven’t started to collect their ore or started too late or unable to collect it have no other choice than buy it from those who have. Just as it happened with raw material in the physical world.

5S won’t get over the gap

It is interesting to discuss if proven merits of 5S will survive big data. Furthermore, younger generations, so-called digital natives, do they capture the interest of 5S? When I see the most offices in which the younger people work, I can make my opinion.

I assume that in short-term, 5S will only apply to the physical world, while other rules will prevail on the digital side.

Watch for updates

This is an outline of more to come on the subject. Follow me on twitter or on this blog to keep posted for updates. An e-mail or tweet to encourage me would be welcome.

Remember, I am a Frenchman, non-native English speaker. If you have suggestions to improve my writing, do not hesitate to contact me!

Chris HOHMANN

View Christian HOHMANN's profile on LinkedIn

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