What are the 5S’s?

5S champions poster

5S is popular methodology in Lean workplaces, specifically manufacturing. It is much more than an organizational tool, but rather a tool that helps facilities increase sales, reduce costs, and gives organizations a bit of an edge. Following each step of the 5S process thoroughly and with attention to detail, you will be able to remove clutter from the workspace while creating an efficient environment for workers.

5S – The Phases

  1. Sort

Sorting is the process of going through each work area and getting rid of any equipment, tools, or other materials that are not often used. During this first phase of 5S, these excess things will be moved to a storage area or discarded. The result is a much cleaner work area that is easier to maintain. Sorting in 5S will improve employee safety and lessens the chance of confusion and wasted time.

  1. Set in Order

This second step in the 5S system is all about organization. Examine your work area and see to it that everything has a place. Set out to label spots for materials so that they are easy to identify and locate. One way to do this is to use tool foam or shadow board vinyl tape to establish a tool organization system. If your work area is in production, paint or clean as necessary and mark lanes for work areas, storage, and finished products.

  1. Shine

This 5S step is the ongoing cleaning of your work area. Since you have taken the time to organize everything neatly you will want to ensure that it remains that way. Set up a schedule for regular 5S cleaning so that you leave each day with your work area in the same condition as when you started. You should also inspect equipment and tools for damage or leaks while performing regular maintenance so you can fix the problems while they are still minor.

What are the 5S

  1. Standardize

One of the ways to make sure you and your employees do not fall back into old habits is to standardize the way things are done. You might consider making posters that direct employees to the new 5S standard of maintaining their work areas, so they are less likely to revert to old habits.

  1. Sustain

This might be the most difficult step in the 5S program. The best way to maintain the previous steps is to have a formal way to monitor the results of your efforts. You must continually educate employees on keeping up with the standards and adjusting to any changes.

Add Safety to 5S

Many companies are choosing to implement the 6S system over 5S. It is the same exact methodology but with an added step of safety. While some argue safety is inherently built into the five original pillars of 5S, safety should be top priority for any manager. Having a separate phase focused solely on safety can help to guide you through arranging spaces and organizing tools to ensure workers can get their job done without injuring themselves or others.

5S & Visual Communication

Visual communication is one of the core elements to a successful 5S program. Whether you’re focused on improving safety or organization (or both!), using visual cues can ensure your new 5S system is sustained for years to come. Floor signs are a great way to designate homes for work items, like trash bins or utility carts, and labels, a tried and true organizational tool, can be used to remind workers where to return. Additionally, different colors of floor tape allow you to develop a system specific for your facility. Red floor tape is a popular choice for marking fire safety equipment, white tape is often used to WIP inventory areas, and hazard-striped tape is the perfect option for alerting workers of danger.

5S and Going Lean

Companies thinking of going Lean will benefit tremendously from 5S, considered the foundation of Lean manufacturing. By sorting, organizing, and standardizing an efficient system, you can ensure future success with your continuous improvement efforts. Many also reference 5S as the key for a total productive maintenance program (TPM). The great thing about the 5S methodology is that it is cost-effective and involves workers from all levels, meaning implementation does not have to be a hassle.

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