5S

5S

5S is an improvement tool for organizing and maintaining a disciplined and productive workplace. It helps creating a better working environment, reduces waste while improving efficiency, safety and quality. 5S represents five simple practices that starts with the letter ā€œSā€. It is commonly applied in manufacturing facilities in production lines, storage areas, maintenance areas, and office areas. It is now being increasingly applied to a wide variety of industries including health care, education, hospitality and retail.

5S is a Japanese management approach that was originally developed by Toyota as a part of their lean manufacturing system. It represents an important component of the lean production system and a prerequisite for driving other lean techniques such as TPM and Kaizen. Many companies start their lean transformation journey with 5S because it is one of the easiest lean techniques and exposes some of the most visible examples of waste. Many lean experts believe that you need to be successful with 5S so you don’t struggle with the other lean techniques during lean implementation.

5S is a structured way to create and maintain an organized, clean, safe, and high-performing work environment. It is not just about the appearance and keeping the place tidy, nor it is a housekeeping technique. It is more a way of eliminating waste, identifying opportunities for improvement, and making a more efficient and productive workplace. 5S helps making waste visible to everyone so it can be eliminated right away. With 5S, you can eliminate or reduce excess inventory, wasted motion, waiting while searching to find the required items, and having more parts than required.

Everybody likes to work in a clean and well organized environment. Once fully implemented, 5S can make work areas cleaner, safer and more pleasant to work in. A clean and tidy workplace leads to reduced wasted time looking for things and therefore reduced frustration. This not only will make everybody’s job easier, it will also make employees feel better about where they work and creates workplace ownership and motivation. It will promote effectiveness, encourages teamwork, builds pride, and forms a great starting point to implement other lean techniques.

A clean and tidy workplace is also essential for efficient operations and for the creation of smooth working. 5S will create an environment in which people are sensitive about mistakes and abnormalities. Employees will be able to distinguish between normal and abnormal conditions at a glance. As a result, problems are quickly identified, accidents and mistakes are minimized, and work areas are easier to be managed. 5S will also create positive impressions on customers as it is expected that the standards displayed in the workplace will be reflected in the product delivered. This builds customer confidence in the product, improves the image of the business, making it more profitable and competitive in the marketplace.

5S is sometimes considered as a stand-alone program that needs financial justification. One main issue faced when performing 5S is that cost savings typically can’t be captured in most costing systems. There will be soft-savings in terms of quality, safety and moral, however, there will be no hard-savings that can be measured and tracked. One way to justify the value of 5S is by measuring the reduction in waste. For example, you may measure the time spent searching for tools or the time spent clearing the space to work. Make sure that these improvements are documented and backed up by data and analysis as this will build your case for investment.

The term 5S is an abbreviation for five Japanese words: seiri, seiton, seisou, seiketsu, and shitsuke. These five words are often translated into English as: sorting, setting in order, shining, standardizing, and sustaining. Other translations are possible.

Sorting is the first step in 5S. It refers to the practice of going through all the items in the workplace and keeping only what is actually needed. Items which are excess to requirements should be either stored offsite or discarded. The main idea behind sorting is to clear the area from distractions to concentrate on what will remain in the workplace. This will lead to less clutter and wasted time, free up space, and create a more streamlined workplace.

Some of the strategies used in sorting are:

  • Inspect all items in the workplace then define what is necessary to perform the work. Keep only what is needed and remove everything else.
  • Remove items which are unusable, broken, outdated, redundant or occasionally used.
  • Define standards for eliminating unnecessary items and for waste disposal.
  • Don’t forget computer files and emails. Archive or delete files that are no longer needed.

A very common tool used in the sorting phase is the Red Tag technique. It is a labeling tool used to highlight what is necessary in a given area. The goal is to determine if anyone thinks an item is necessary and in what quantity. Items are red tagged for a limited period of time during which their usage is evaluated. After one week or two, the items that are not used or pulled from the area should be relocated or get rid of resulting in a less cluttered workplace.


A Red Tag is a labeling tool used in the sorting phase of the 5S program

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