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If your company is like most organizations today, you’re searching for a competitive edge. Something that will reduce costs, increase sales and make you more agile in a changing business environment.
Well you’ve found it.
Simply put, 5S is a systematic approach to workplace organization. But it’s also much more than that. 5S is about efficiency, competitiveness and survival. It is a deceptively simple system that creates an organized and productive workplace.
But it’s not just about cleaning up and eliminating toolboxes. 5S creates a workplace environment that can adapt and succeed in these turbulent times. Chaos and unproductively are your enemies; organization and efficiency are your allies.
If implemented correctly and followed diligently, 5S will lead to:
Higher employee satisfaction
From the offices of upper management to the workstations in the factory, the power of this system will quickly reveal itself in your bottom line.
5S is sometimes called the five pillars because just like the physical pillars that hold up a structure, 5S has five elements that support the effectiveness of the system. And just like the pillars of a building, if one was to weaken or fail, the entire structure would fall.
Eliminate all the things in the workspace that are not being used and store them away.
Set in Order (Seiton)
Arrange the items used on a daily basis so that they can be easily accessed and quickly stored.
Everything is cleaned and functioning properly.
Develop a routine for sorting, setting and shining.
Create a culture that follows the steps on a daily basis.
Pillars of 5S
Originally developed by Hiroyuki Hirano for manufacturing companies in Japan (the original Japanese names of the five pillars are in parentheses), the principles of 5S translate well to the laboratory, the repair facility, and even the corporate office. Almost any workplace environment will benefit from the structure and efficiency that this model provides.
5S is a system, a philosophy and a culture. The true power of 5S reveals itself when your whole organization embraces its ideals and your employees see that your business is transforming itself.
The first pillar of the 5S system is Sort. Sort is the process of removing all the items that are not needed for current production from the workspace. The goal is to eliminate all of the unneeded tools and materials and to create a space that is free of clutter- this allows for a workflow free from distraction.
If you do not use it on a daily basis – throw it out. Leave only the things that you absolutely need to get you job done. This includes tools, materials and machinery.
Sorting is the cornerstone of 5S. It will get rid of problems like:
Tools and materials impeding workflow
Wasted time looking for parts and tools
Stockpiling unnecessary and expensive inventory
Safety hazards resulting from clutter
5S Red Tags
Red Tags are integral to the sorting process.
The sort principle borrows from the model of JIT, or Just-in-Time. The focus is having “the right material, at the right time, at the right place, and in the exact amount.”
Identifying unneeded parts and tools is not always an easy task. Employees and managers get so used to the chaos that they don’t even see it anymore. 5S has an effective tool that will help you with your sort – it’s called the Red-Tag Strategy.
The red-tag strategy is a great way to identify all of the objects that need to be removed from the workplace. When you see something that you think may need to be removed, you literally put a red tag on it. This is a flag that lets everyone know that this item needs to be evaluated.
When something has a red tag on it, you can now ask some questions about it.
Do we need this item?
If so, how many do we need at the workstation?
If we need it, should we leave it here or move it to a new location?
Red Tagged Equipment
Once you ask these questions, you can now put the item in its proper place. You have the following options:
Leave the item where it is.
Dispose of the item
Relocate the item
Put it in a red-tag holding area.
The red-tag holding area is a place where you can put items that you aren’t completely sure about yet. Perhaps you’re not sure of the quantity that you need at the workstation. Or maybe you don’t know how often you need it.
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Some tools or materials may just be hard to get rid of because you have had them so long. In this case the holding area can just serve to make this transition easier. It takes some of the emotion away from the process.
When executing the Sort step, you must be vigilant and ruthless. Utilize the holding area for all items for which you are not sure. Doing this first step correctly will lay the groundwork and ensure a successful implementation of the 5S model.
You begin the next phase of 5S only when the Sort phase is complete. The Set in Order phase will be useless if there is unnecessary clutter in the workspace.
Set in Order is the process of putting everything in a place so that it is easy to get to and easy to put away. Everything should have a home and it should be clearly marked so that anyone could easily find its place.
The goal of Set in Order is to create a standardized and consistent way to store and retrieve tools and materials. The key here is standardization. The user must develop this system based on how often the tools and materials are accessed, and the process by which they are used.
Some guidelines to consider:
If items are used together, store them together.
Put the frequently used items closest to the user.
If possible, devise a let-go system in which tools are attached to a retractable cord and automatically go back to stored position.
Place items so that the user’s twisting and bending is kept at a minimum when accessing them.
Arrange tools and materials in order of use.
Anyone that has ever shared a workbench, a laboratory or an office space with other people knows that searching and losing items can be a big problem. How many man-hours have been wasted looking for lost or misplaced tools?
Racks that have been set in order
The Set in Order pillar utilizes several different strategies to accomplish its goals.
The Signboard Strategy uses signboards to indicate where the workplace items are to be stored, which items are to be stored there, and exactly how many items belong there. Shelves, tubs, drawers – any storage place or container should be clearly labeled.
Painting Strategyis used to clearly mark walkways from working areas. Separating operational areas from walking areas allows for a safer and smoother flow of goods in the facility.
Although it is called the painting strategy, most often colored tape is used for versatility.
Divider lines can be used indicate aisle direction, door range, portable equipment storage locations and hazardous areas.
Outlining Strategy creates a visual home for your tools. Each tool has an outline drawn of the tool so that you know exactly where it goes, and so that you also know when a tool is missing.
In the first step you eliminated the chaos of the workspace, and in this second step you’ve put in place a logical system of organization. Now we move to the third pillar of the 5S philosophy – Shine.
It’s time to take it to the next level. Where you eliminated clutter with Sort and you organized with Set in Order, now it’s time sanitize with Shine.
In this step, Shine literally means to remove all the dirt and the grime and to keep it that way on daily basis. You want to get it clean and keep it clean.
When you implement this step, two things will happen. First, your employees will love coming to work in such a clean and bright environment. And second, because you are keeping the equipment and your surroundings in such great shape, you will have fewer injuries and fewer equipment breakdowns.
And that means greater productivity and fewer costs.
With the 5S system, cleaning is everyone’s responsibility. Although you may still use a janitorial staff to tackle the daily large-scale jobs, the detailed cleaning will be done by your employees. You must train your staff to view dirt and chaos as an intolerable situation. It must be a culture that is followed from the CEO down to the apprentice.
Standardize your cleaning program for best results. Train your employees how to do it correctly. Make sure that they know what they are responsible for and give them the tools to do the job. Utilize checklists and diagrams for consistency.
But cleaning is just the first part of Shine. The daily Shine ritual should also include inspection and routine maintenance.
As your employees are doing their daily cleaning routine, they should be inspecting the tools and machinery for damage or defects as well. Include it in the daily checklist to make sure it gets done.
Periodic routine maintenance should also be done at this time. Some examples would be to check the oil level in the machinery, tighten up belts, hoses, nuts and bolts, or to check if tools need sharpening.
The goal for Shine is to keep everything in great working order to ensure that it doesn’t break down and that it lasts for as long as possible. Clean and properly maintained tools and machines also greatly increase the safety level in the workplace. Less injuries and less down time equate to higher morale and higher productivity.
What if an employee sees a pool of oil that wasn’t there before, or notices a safety hazard? If it’s a quick fix, put a maintenance tag on it on notify your supervisor. If it is something that needs further evaluation, there should be a maintenance log that you can fill out that will ensure further action.
And don’t forget your computers and other office equipment. They are some of your most valuable and important items. Teach your employees how to clean and maintain them properly. They need to be defragmented and dusted periodically to keep them in prime running order.
Everything is coming together. The groundwork has been set for a successful 5S implementation. Now we move on to the pillar that will be the glue that keeps it all together: Standardize.
The clutter is gone. You’ve created a great system of organization. Your shop is spotless. Now you need a system that will integrate the first three pillars and make sure that they get done correctly.
Standardize creates a system of tasks and procedures that will ensure that the principles of 5S are performed on a daily basis.
We all have our own way of doing things. This kind of individuality is great in our personal lives because it makes life much more interesting and fun.
But non-conformity can be unproductive in the workplace. If your employees started doing things their own way, then things will start to get missed and conditions will slowly start to deteriorate.
The Standardize pillar seeks to create a set of schedules and checklists that can be easily followed so that each step is performed exactly the same way every day. Each employee knows what he needs to do, when he needs to do it, and exactly how to do it. There is no room for uncertainty.
Standardize uses three steps to make sure that the 5S pillars are getting done consistently and correctly.
Make sure that each employee knows his responsibilities. If they don’t know exactly what is expected of them, then how can they do it?
They should have a clear understanding of their daily and weekly Sort, Set to Order and Shine tasks. Their responsibilities should be clearly written out on a checklist or a chart so that it can be easily accessed throughout the day.
Tool Organization with Tool Foam
Tool box drawer organized with tool foam
Make it a part of their daily routine. If you train your employees correctly, they will be executing the steps of 5S without even thinking about it- ‘That wrench is out of place- its home is here.’ -or- ‘I know the next tool I need is the screwdriver because my tools are stored in the order that I use them.’ No extra thought is needed; they flow through their daily routine because they can see that it makes sense.
This is one of 5S’s most powerful aspects – that it’s a visual model. Each tool has an outlined home and each pathway is marked with yellow lines. Vision is our dominant sense, and because 5S uses colors and lines and labels to organize, following the steps becomes second nature very easily. Combined with the proper training, your employees will begin to execute these steps without even thinking.
With SafetyTac products, you can create your own visual workplace with footprints, corner marks, floor tape and much more. See the full selection at www.creativesafetysupply.com.
Periodic evaluation. Once the pillars are in place, you will have to evaluate the performance at regular intervals. You can either form a committee made up of employees of different departments, or assign it to department supervisors. Either way, you will need a system to ensure that tasks are consistently getting done.
Standardize is essential to the success of your 5S implementation. If your staff has procedures to follow to complete the steps, you will ensure long-term success and reap all of the rewards of the five pillars.
Once you start the 5S model in your place of business, you will see the improvements very quickly. But the key to key to long term success is simple – diligence.
Sustain is the final pillar of the 5S system and its chief objective is to give your staff the commitment and motivation to follow each step, day in and day out.
Here are some great techniques to keep your staff motivated:
Assign the time to do it. Give your staff the time to do the steps correctly. For example, designate the fifteen minutes before lunch and shift end as Shine time. During this time, their main focus is cleaning and organizing according to their checklists.
5S in the workplace poster
Start from the top. Your whole organization must be on board if 5S is going to work in the long run. If your employees see that management is not following the steps, do you think that they will continue to do it?
Create a reward system. Have friendly competitions between departments each month and reward the winner. Buy them lunch, let them go early one day, or give them priority parking. It doesn’t have to break the bank; you just want to show them your appreciation for a job well done.
Get everyone involved. Form a committee made up of employees and supervisors of different departments. Their job will be to oversee the implementation of 5S for a fixed period, maybe six months. Then you can rotate in new members.
Let them see it. Posters, banners and newsletters can be a constant reminder of the importance of 5S.
That’s it. With these five pillars you will see a remarkable change in your workplace. But there is one more point we want to cover.
This is not only a great way to keep your staff involved and motivated, but as new employees rotate into the committee, they will get a better understanding of how 5S works and how important it is.