“5S” is the practice of keeping the workplace organized, free of clutter and clean at all times. The concept originated in Japanese manufacturing and is now used in many different professional settings. Five Japanese words starting with the letter S define the process. Luckily, when translated the corresponding English words all begin with the letter S as well. While the overall concept is simple to understand, implementation requires more than just walking on the shop floor and saying, “Clean this place up!” 5S is a very valuable tool when undergoing a Lean transformation.
Five S Words
Sort, Straighten, Shine, Standardize and Sustain seem pretty straightforward. Let’s take a look at each word individually:
- Sort all pieces, parts and supplies. Discard all unneeded items. Take away obstacles to reduce distractions. Remove things that are not being used and neatly store them elsewhere. Do not make excuses to keep unnecessary items.
- Straighten all remaining items into logical order. Label each storage unit correctly. Make all needed items easily accessible to facilitate a smooth workflow
- Shine the workplace until it gleams. Inspect for cleanliness constantly. A clean workplace promotes safety, ease of function and a pleasing environment.
- Standardization promotes orderliness and efficiency while decreasing confusion.
- Sustain these practices by inspecting for compliance and reiterating expectations.
Employees are expected to sustain cleanliness and order without being reminded. Management must train the employees to perform under new standards and audit the process on a regular basis.
Why Implement 5S?
According to a study by researchers at Princeton University Neuroscience Institute published in The Journal of Neuroscience, clutter inhibits our ability to focus and concentrate. The brain is not able to process information as effectively when it is surrounded by clutter and chaos.
Think about how it feels to work in a sloppy environment. How does it feel when essential supplies and equipment are lost and misplaced? The resulting distractions cause a decrease in productivity, a decline in quality and an overall sense of frustration for the employee.
Benefits of 5S
5S should really be more than just a housekeeping strategy. It should be thought of as a problem prevention program. A clean, organized and orderly environment makes small problems noticeable and prevents bigger problems from occurring. Once solved each problem should never happen again. 5S builds a culture of self-discipline and also sets the stage for many other Lean processes.
As with any new initiative implementation of 5S comes with certain challenges. Employees may resist change unless the program is introduced properly.
- Positive promotion is the key to rolling out the program. Do not look at the implementation as a chore or something to be endured. Promote the program with genuine excitement.
- All levels of management must buy-in to the concept. They should be early adopters of 5S in their own office or workspace to set an example for the rest of the company. They must also be able to communicate the benefits of the program and be advocates
- Operations cannot stop just because a new program is being implemented
- Grant all employees a reasonable amount of time to implement the changes. Start and end dates are important because it provides a goal to achieve.
- Provide guidelines not deadlines. Trust employees to meet expectations but realize they are trying to be productive as well.
Imagine what it would feel like to work in a pristine environment. Small problems are evident to the unknowing eye and bigger problems rarely occur as a result. We can help you to use 5S and other valuable tools to improve your business.
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