Implementing 5 s, the first step towards workplace efficiency
5s is one of the first tools that can be applied in a company that is starting to get into the continuous improvement culture. It helps to define the first rules to eliminate waste and maintain a work environment that is efficient, safe and clean. It was first popularized by Taiichi Ohno, who designed the Toyota Production System and Shigeo Shingo, who also put forward the concept of poka-yoke.
The good news is that 5S easy for everyone to start using it, as it doesn’t require technical analysis, and can be implemented in all sort of companies, from manufacturing plants to offices, from small to multinational business, from private to public sectors, all around the globe. It’s so simple, practical and visual that well implemented it can engage the operators as well as the directors, and surprise the customers as well. It’s the perfect tool to identify the first improvement projects in your company in order to eliminate waste. It may be seen just as a housekeeping technique, but actually it is an innovative management system that helps people to start thinking leanwise. On top of it, 5S is also applied to keep workplaces safe at all times (free of falling objects or potential hazards) and maintain it through time. The objective is to reduce costs, identify defects quickly and encourage self-discipline.
How does your business do today?
Let’s do a test first. If you answer yes to any of the following questions, you may find 5S really useful:
- Are there loose hanging electrical wires in the workplace?
- Are there files, drawers and cabinets in the workplace that are unlabeled or their content is hard to identify?
- Do you observe valuable space being occupied by useless items?
- Are there papers in your workplace that are not used and are gathering dust?
- Does everybody know how to maintain the workplace organized and what are their responsibilities, even when the boss is not looking?
- Do people in your workplace struggle to locate documents or files, both in physical and digital format?
What does 5s stand for?
5s is based on five Japanese terms all starting with s (the English version also start with S), that represent steps towards the final aim, which is to sustain workplace efficiency:
- Sort: Separate needed tools, materials, and instructions from those not needed. Remove everything that is not needed from the work area. Prepare an inventory sheet so that you know exactly what do you need to work. Also get ready to review if you probably have too much of some things, or you you need to have more to avoid any business disruptions.
- Store: Sort and organize all the needed material: tools, equipment, files, data, material, and any other resources. Sort them in a way that are for quick, easy location and use. Label all locations and tools and equipment. Use pictures to showcase how the workplace or the drawer should look like. Usually a good storing method means that you can find all your goods in less that thirty seconds. So all goods need to have a defined place to be located, but also goods need to be at that place at the tame you are looking for them. If you use them, you return them.
- Shine: Set a new level of cleanliness. Clean and remove all trash, grease and dirt. Everything must be clean, tidy and neatly put in its place. Cleanliness provides a safe work area and makes potential problems visible, e.g. equipment leaks, loose parts, missing guards, loose paperwork, materials. Shine means not only clean, but it also means that everything has to look as if it was brand new: floors, ceiling, furniture, tools, walls, documentation. Even workers have to look clean and neat to provide the best image to our clients. And do not forget about the elements to be able to clean: appropriate cleaning materials should be available in the workplace. It is always a good thing to remind the employees that I always have to keep things as is, so if I create a mess, I clean it, I don’t wait until cleaning staff come around otherwise it will get even more messy. Basically, we don’t clean up for visitors, we always keep it clean for ourselves.
- Standardize: Engage the workforce to systematically do 1, 2 & 3 above daily, to maintain the workplace in perfect condition as a standard process. Establish schedules, audits and procedures. Visual management helps to standardize without using written procedures: you can use colours, pictures and images to show work in process, re-fill needs, cross-walks or even to display safety instructions.
- Sustain: make 5s part of your culture. Build organizational commitment so that 5S becomes an organizational “value” or expectation so everyone develops 5 S as a habit. Integrate it into your performance management system, prepare training sessions for new hires and suppliers and share and celebrate audit results.
Get to know more about 5S by requesting a training session.