5S - Principle so Basic it’s Brilliant
Lean manufacturing efforts have been around for more than a century but perhaps there are none quite as simple and effective as the 5S (five-step) method. 5S was designed to eliminate waste, improve cleanliness and enhance quality control at a manufacturers’ most basic levels.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, when executed correctly the 5S lean manufacturing system will enhance productivity and minimize the use of excess material. By following the five-step process and using its visual cues, leaders and workers at manufacturing facilities can experience a more orderly workplace and improve operational performance.
The 5S method is reported to have made its manufacturing debut post WWII as part of the Toyota Total Production System process and has been implemented at manufacturing facilities around the world. The root of this methodology came from Kaizen – the system of constant improvement and a key part of lean manufacturing. Kaizen is actually a Japanese term that means “the real place” so it’s no surprise the rally cry for 5S is “a place for everything and everything in its place.” It was implemented with the notion that most improvement and competitive success will come from efficiencies created on the factory floor.
What Each S Pillar Stands For
So, what do all the “S’s” stand for?
Sort. Straighten. Shine. Standardize. Sustain. They're often color coded for visual attention. Here’s an additional breakdown of each pillar:
Sort – This step focuses on the process of elimination and removing items that aren’t needed for current production. This means going through tools, supplies and equipment, and keeping out only what is essential.
Straighten – This is all about creating order and arranging daily-use items for easier accessibility and storage. Everything has a place it should go – which makes it easier to find items and minimizes chaos on the factory floor. Labeling systems and designated bins should be incorporated in this stage.
Shine – An old adage claims cleanliness is next to godliness. One might argue the same rings true for a company’s manufacturing facility. Cleaning away dirt, debris and keeping the workspace and machinery in top order helps raise the bar of the entire organization. It also helps eliminate downtime – as equipment is maintained this way.
Standardize – Systems are needed to create change. Documentation, visuals, designation of roles and responsibilities and regular team meetings help ensure the first three pillars are maintained and followed daily.
Sustain – The ongoing application of each pillar will lead to additional skills and knowledge for both leaders and employees, engrain the method into the organization’s culture and result in operational improvements and organizational-wide effectiveness.
As innovation and technology advancements are happening at warp speed, it’s more crucial than ever that manufacturers follow processes like 5S to avoid excess stock, quality issues, production problems, downtime or safety concerns. Some research suggests that this method alone can result in efficiency gains in the realm of 10 to 30 percent.
Some believe that 5S should be updated to 6S - to include safety. We'll explore that in a future blog post.