Top Ten Suggestions for 5S Success

At its root, 5S is a system reliant upon the culture and philosophy behind its implementation. Your companies willingness to embrace its ideals can make all the difference in the process. The benefits to a successful 5S culture are endless and extremely beneficial to everyone involved. Examples of a correctly implemented 5S system include, lower costs, better quality, improved safety, increased productivity, and higher employee satisfaction.

The structure itself is simple and straightforward, but still we see organizations fail to implement a successful 5S system. The following suggestions are designed to help you create a successful 5S system, getting you on the road to a more organized and productive workplace.

1. Start small- A common and effective method for a successful implementation of the 5S system is to first select target areas or zones to implement the system into. Narrow your selection by cost, need, risk, and safety to use to your advantage. Showing the success in a particular area of the organization will give others a reason to buy-in to the system, creating a sustainable foundation for a successful 5S system.

2. Have the right supplies available- Employees should always have the right supplies available and within easy reach at all time in order keep a successful 5S system up and going. If an employee has to look for, and can’t find the supplies needed to perform a specific task within the system, they are more likely to loose interest in the system while spending the time looking for the item. Here is a list of supplies to always have on hand:

  • Label makers, labels, safety signs, sign makers
  • Tape, floor tape, colored tape, marking tape
  • Tags, red tags, asset tags, 5S tags
  • Training materials
  • Tool shadows, shadow boards, boards
  • Shine chart, cleaning supplies
  • 5S cart with supplies
  • Camera
  • Bins, holders, organizers

3. Provide proper training- There is a strong correlation between proper training and a successful 5S system. Without the proper tools and training employees feel less engaged into the system. Classroom type sessions, videos, 5S events, and reading material are all effective ways to provide the initial training to get your 5S system up and running successfully.

5S-guide-guide-and-poster4. Show, don’t tell what the ideal workplace should look like- Most people are visual learners by trait. Use visual aids to help the staff understand what your definition of a clean and organized workstation looks like. Before and after pictures can help show a pattern of progression and track success. Place the before pictures outside the workspace so workers can visually track progression.

5. Lead by example- Getting employees to buy into a system designed around a clean and orderly workspace while the managers office is cluttered, is a clear path to failure. Your management in a 5S company should have the cleanest and most organized work areas of anyone in the organization. The example they set will correlate to cooperation by the rest of the staff. Your leaders should understand all the fundamentals of the 5S system and be ready to explain and help fix any situations that arise.

6. Clearly define your expectations- Every employee should have specific roles that they are expected to fill within the system. These expectations should be clearly defined within each and every job description. Consistently emphasize the importance of completing these tasks and why they are important to the overall success of the company. Your leaders should be able to provide both positive feedback and constructive feedback if certain expectations are not met.

7. Provide the means to incorporate, not isolate- Often times we see companies isolate their 5S initiative into a stand alone process. This does not show the benefit of the system, instead  it confuses employees as to why it is they are supposed to buy into it. Incorporate the process into the big picture and fundamentals for improvement of the company. Form review groups and incorporate them into your leadership and group meetings. This keeps the focus on and provides data to improve upon.

8. Daily enforcement- It should be embedded into every supervisor and managers brain to be constantly on the look out for 5S violations. Conducting weekly or monthly audits will always play a key role in your system, but daily reinforcement can be vital in your 5S success. If a manger walks by an employee violating a 5S policy and says nothing, the manager is delivering a crushing blow to the progression of your system. By not saying anything, the manager is telling the employee that his behavior is ok, thus creating a snowball effect of violations to come. Leaders can not be afraid to point out a violation anytime they are on the floor with employees.

9. Reward Excellence- Take the time to reward your staff or teams that are outperforming others. This not a means of rewarding employees for doing their job, but rather pointing out those that go above and beyond the level of standards you layout. As you conduct your monthly inspections remember it is important to only reward the highest score, pointing out the lowest scores is inefficient and detrimental to progression. Before and after pictures can be helpful here as well to show others what going above and beyond looks like.

10. Audits- Depending on the size of the area or zone, conduct annual or bi-annual audits to force action and promote follow through. This will help shed light on specific areas of concern and define expectations for continued improvement. Provide immediate feedback of your findings and encourage continued improvement with your results.

These suggestions are designed to help you with the implementation of a successful and sustainable 5S system. When reviewing or conducting audits and looking for ways to improve your system, take a look back through these steps, identifying possible areas for improvement. Also, remember the 5S system is an ongoing process, it is designed for continuous improvement for your organization’s long term success.

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