The 5S process takes a common sense approach to maintaining a clean workplace environment. Although technically part of a lean manufacturing strategy, 5S elements – sort, straighten, shine, standardize and sustain – benefit businesses of all sizes and in any industry. A good way to think of the 5S process is not as a lean tactic or a cost-reduction program, but as a workplace philosophy.
One of the main objectives of 5S is to get and keep every aspect of your business organized. As a result, businesses that adopt the 5S system are often more efficient. For example, in a retail store, items at each cashier station have exactly the same labeling and organization. Anyone can step in and start working with customers without first having to assess the work area, locate a copy of the latest ad and replenish the supply of rain-check slips. As a result, cashiers spend more time working with customers and less time on non-productive tasks.
A clean, well-organized working environment reduces hazards and in turn creates a safer workplace. Safety-first standard operating procedures require employees to clean spills immediately, keep aisles free from clutter and store items in their proper place. This is especially important for businesses subject to Occupational Safety and Health Administration compliance regulations.
Good organization, which includes storing commonly used items close to the work area and in ergonomically correct locations not only reduces unnecessary movements but also the potential for injuries that occur over time, such as carpal tunnel syndrome.
Implementing the 5S system can have significant direct and indirect cost-saving advantages. For one thing, better organization often reduces storage space requirements. For another, you are less likely to experience increased inventory costs relating to lost or misplaced inventory items.
In a manufacturing business, routine cleaning and preventative maintenance SOPs increase the chance that employees can find and address problems with machines and other equipment before issues become more serious and require expensive repairs. In addition, a safer working environment can decrease health and business insurance costs.
Everything that goes on behind the scenes in a 5S system works to provide value to your customers and, in turn, increase customer satisfaction. For example, although your customers don’t care about cash station organization or routine cleaning SOPs, they do care about fast check-out lanes and appreciate a clean, well-organized store.
In addition, because a commitment to 5S requires significant employee participation, not only does this increase employee engagement, but it also creates a more pleasant work environment in which employees take greater pride in their jobs.