One of the fundamental tools in any Lean toolkit is 5S. In a nutshell, it entails creating an organized, effective workspace that supports the processes being performed in the area.
The original 5S terms come from Japanese words:
Because translation is an inexact science, you will likely see many different versions of 5S. Some of the most common terms include: sort, simplify, systematic arrangement, set in order, spic and span, scrub, sweep, shine, standardize, stabilize, sustain, and self-discipline. The same term (i.e. simplify) may even describe different steps and have alternate meanings in different companies.
Velaction’s recommended version of 5S:
In truth, though, whatever version is used, you will likely find an underlying current of common sense in it. In fact, you and your team likely use many of the concepts in your home life, so it should not be a big stretch to apply the same logical principles of 5S in your factory or Lean office. One of the most common examples of 5S in the home is the ubiquitous divider in the silverware drawer (shown above).
Often, organizations will audit their 5S efforts. Some evaluate progress as an overall “S” level (1S, 2S, etc). Others assess each individual component of 5S on its own scale. Many of these assessments include a formal audit process.
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5S can help in a variety of situations. Look through the list below to see if you recognize any of the following conditions:
If you learn how to 5S you will find that it is a simple and powerful method that really does work to help eliminate these conditions. It has a measurable impact on efficiency, primarily by reducing the time it takes to find things, walk to get things, or prepare workspaces for use.
The intangible benefits of learning how to 5S come in a variety of forms. A supervisor observing an employee who is well-versed in 5S generally has more confidence in him. The employee who is able to keep a workspace finely tuned to the process appears far more competent than one who works in an area of disarray.
Also think about investors and customers. Would you put your money into a company that looked completely disorganized? Would you buy your lunch from a filthy restaurant? Retail stores generally understand the need to make good impressions on customers. They keep their stores orderly, prominently label their goods, and are contstantly cleaning. They do this because they understand the financial impact of image.
People whose areas are 5S’ed also seem to be a little more relaxed than those working in chaos. They can always find just what they need in a crisis, preventing the increase of stress on the job. They also are able to limit the frustrations that come from searching for tools and materials, or having to make due with an inadequate workspace.
I recommend using the following general steps as you learn how to 5S:
Some ideas for standardizing include:
5S is one of the bedrocks of continuous improvement. Checklists, or sign-off sheets, (like you see for cleaning schedules in restaurant restrooms) are effective at helping ensure 5S is being maintained.
One of the most common reactions people have to 5S is a feeling of micromanagement. They believe that 5S takes away some of their flexibility, and their autonomy in the work area.
While that can be true when the location of items are dictated by others, good 5S includes ownership by frontline employees. Managers should be giving you the tools and training to make good decisions about workplace arrangement on your own. Managers should also provide the necessary resources, including time, money, and the right tools and equipment.
If you have a leader dictating what to do, do a self-assessment and see if you have been offering any ideas of your own. If you have, it presents a bit of a challenge. Working with a leader who likes things their own way can be difficult in the workplace.
But if you have not, there’s a good chance that the simple act of…
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