5S: More Than Meets The Eye

5S Success PosterThe Lean manufacturing process known as 5S has become one of the most universally adopted tools of Lean. Whether your an office in the suburbs or a major manufacturing plant in the city, organizations have found value from using 5S as a workplace management tool. From the outside looking in, 5S can seem like merely a method for creating a clean and tidy work area where everything is neat and easy to find. Which for some, is exactly what they need in their current situation. But for a true Lean organization, 5S is much more than meets the eye.

Get The Most Out Of 5S

A bi-product of 5S is certainly creating a clean and organized work area, but maybe more importantly is the value each principle adds to a worker’s efficiency and ability to do their work effectively.

  • Sort: Only the things you use on a regular basis are within close proximity
  • Straighten: Anything you need to use should be able to be found in 30 seconds or less
  • Shine: Your workplace or equipment you use should be ready for immediate use at all times
  • Standardize: Each employee does a specific job the same way and work together to improve upon it
  • Sustain: Full participation from the organization to promote a safe, efficient and effective culture in the workplace

This may or may not be the typical way your organization approaches the 5S process, but when you open it up to more than just what the translation offers, the possibilities are endless.

We all want a clean and organized workplace, but what about the other benefits of 5S?

It’s More Than You Think

  • Less mistakes, increasing efficiency and prevents you from having to fix mistakes that are costly and slow business
  • Equipment is kept in perfect running order, resulting in less down time and costly repairs
  • No variation in work or performance from shift to shift
  • Faster delivery of better products, improving relationships with customers
  • Safer work environment for all to work in

Seeing how most Lean organizations use 5S as a starting point for their Lean initiatives it is important to grasp these concepts. Promoting the 5S process as a package of productivity and efficiency, instead of  just a means to keep things clean is a more effective approach, especially when it comes to sustainment and culture building.

Remember, at the heart of your Lean programs is the culture that drives them. If the people driving your 5S believe it is only about workplace management and a clean work area, then that is all that you will ever get out of it. But if you are able to open them up to all the benefits, the results will follow.

Keep Continuous Improvement at the Forefront

Another drawback of a narrow approach to 5S is that it may slow or halter continuous improvement efforts. If employees think it’s only about a clean and organized workplace, that’s all they will strive for. However, if they believe 5S is about always doing excellent work that customers appreciate and want, then they will continue to improve the process and allow 5S to harness a culture of continuous improvement throughout the organization.

Additional Resources