The 5S methodology is an essential part of the lean manufacturing tool set. When properly used, it can help improve the safety and efficiency of your work force. Each step in the 5S process presents an opportunity for standardization and mistake-proofing, and having a simple checklist will help you properly implement each "S" in the system.
Remove all unnecessary items from the work area. A separate area should be designated as the "red tag" area. Place all non-essential items that are not to be thrown away, such as extra tools and equipment, in this area. Attach a numbered tag to each item in the red tag area indicating where it came from, why it was tagged and the name of the person who tagged it. Send the red tagged items to the appropriate person or department for disposition.
Set in Order
Organize the work area. The key phrase to describe this step is "a place for everything and everything in its place." These measures may include color-coding items and labeling or even taping off specific areas on a workstation labeled for individual items. Trip hazards such as errant cords should be eliminated by tie-wrapping them together and securing them to a desk or wall. This is an opportunity not only to make your work area safer, but also more aesthetically pleasing.
Clean everything until it shines. Having already removed the unnecessary items and put all remaining items in their place, your work area will be clear enough to clean properly and quickly. Take time to clean the work area today, and take steps to make it easier to maintain in the future. This might include painting or making minor repairs to the workstation and certainly should include preventative maintenance to help keep the workstation and all equipment from getting dirty or damaged in the future.
This step aims to get all team members and functional areas doing things the same way. First, this means collecting and implementing best practices developed among various functional teams. This is one of the key strengths of lean manufacturing: taking the best methods and distributing them so that the entire organization can benefit. Another goal of this step is to ensure that each shared work area is organized in such a way that any person can walk up to the workstation and begin his task without having to waste time finding a tool that the previous user put away in a different place.
This is arguably the most difficult step in the 5S process. Sustaining 5S involves putting measures in place to prevent things from slipping back to their former state. This necessitates an improvement plan for each functional area that should include checklists of the areas to be maintained and the frequency with which they should be maintained. Simple visual reminders around the workplace can help keep team members mindful of the importance of 5S. In addition, regular audits, where work areas are inspected for conformance to the principles of 5S, are powerful in keeping everyone on track.
- World Class Manufacturing; 5S Seiri - "Sort"
- Graphic Products: 5S Program - Set in Order
- Quality Training Portal: 5S's Shine - Cleanliness and Workplace Appearance
- Quality Training Portal: 5S's Standardize - Everyone Doing Things the Same Way
- Environmental Protection Agency: Lean Manufacturing and the Environment
Elliott Taylor has been a writer and blogger since 2009. His articles have been published in the "Arbiter" and "Messenger Index" newspapers, as well as online venues. Taylor holds a Bachelor of Business Administration in marketing from Boise State University.