If your business operations sometimes (or always) feel chaotic and inefficient, your company may benefit from implementing a 5S program. This organizing and streamlining process can be used in any business but is considered essential in manufacturing.
Regardless of your industry, you can benefit from this way of thinking and operating to make your business more organized and efficient. A 5S program gives employees the agency to create efficiencies and continuous improvement. When each employee is empowered and motivated by these goals, the entire organization benefits.
5S is a five-step methodology created in Japan. It’s the foundation of the total productive maintenance system for manufacturers, where operators are responsible for maintaining their equipment to reduce breakdowns, stoppages and defects. 5S is also an integral part of the lean methodology movement in manufacturing.
5S methodology includes the following tenets to create a more organized and efficient workplace:
When all employees are engaged in this process, the organization eliminates waste and reduces resource burn and inefficiencies. A 5S program can change your workplace culture so each employee is focused on – and takes pride in – quality, productivity, workplace safety and efficiency.
Any business can adopt and implement a 5S program. Here’s how to get started.
Before starting a 5S implementation, immerse yourself in lean methodology and philosophy. Organizations that experience 5S success use lean tools like 5S audits and track key performance indicators (KPIs) to help gauge success (more on this below). Additionally, most stakeholders intend to continue with a lean philosophy after conducting a 5S program. If you can’t successfully implement 5S, you don’t have a chance of implementing lean.
The book Lean Thinking: Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation, by James Womack and Daniel T. Jones, is a must-read for anyone starting a lean journey. Additionally, The 5S Pocket Guide, by James Peterson and Roland Smith, discusses everything you need to know about 5S programs in a condensed form.
Reading these books is the first step toward efficiently implementing a 5S program for your organization.
Hold a meeting with your employees about the new 5S program and discuss the following:
Conduct audits to keep people motivated and continuously improving during the 5S process. Every business will have unique KPIs to measure each 5S element’s improvements during audits.
To conduct a 5S audit:
Here’s an example of an audit with KPIs for straighten. In this example, two areas experienced low scores, while others showed more improvement. These results are part of the continuous improvement effort that is the backbone of lean methodology.
What to look for
Score (maximum of 5; take off a point for every nonconformance)
Workplace tools in shadow boards after use
All nonessential items out of the area
Hard-copy documents in workstation holders
Pallet jacks returned to the correct area
Job performed at correct workplace station
You can feed results from the 5S audit forms to data fields in an Excel 5S radar chart. A 5S radar chart is a robust visualization tool that can lead to root-cause analysis troubleshooting and strategies to help alleviate any issues and prevent their reoccurrence. Once you get problems under control after monitoring, you can change audit elements to address new housekeeping issues.
Image courtesy of Holly Chavez
Implementing a 5S program has many benefits that can be felt throughout the organization. Here are some of the most crucial benefits.
A 5S program can reduce operational costs while eliminating waste.
Let’s say someone in your office needs paper to print a long proposal. They take a ream of paper from the storage area, use what they need and leave the excess paper on their desk. Another employee has printing needs, but the printer is out of paper. They go to the storage area for more, but there is none. They can’t print what they need until the company orders more paper.
This expenditure is unnecessary; a 5S program would have prevented it. The first employee would have returned the ream of paper to the storage area, and the second employee could’ve accessed it immediately.
A 5S program trains employees to create a process where they clean and inspect the equipment they use. They become better able to spot problems before they become severe.
For example, say a manufacturing employee is cleaning a machine. They notice a puddle of oil on the floor and wipe it up. They investigate further, following the puddle to its source and noticing a small crack that may be causing a leak. They report the issue to management or the department in charge of repairs, preventing a small problem from getting worse and ultimately becoming a safety hazard or stopping production altogether.
A 5S program can reduce accidents and help keep your business safe. For example, accidents are not uncommon in an environment that uses tools, such as a construction site. Workers may leave tools lying around on the ground where others can trip on them. They may also leave raw materials in a disorganized state, making it more likely that people will trip. The materials can also fall, potentially injuring workers and making the materials unusable, causing enormous repercussions for the construction business.
A 5S program helps workers get into the habit of keeping a clean and organized work area, creating a safer environment with fewer workers’ compensation claims and other issues.
OSHA construction site standards aim to reduce the likelihood of serious injuries caused by falling, being struck by an object, electrocution, and being caught in or between objects.
A 5S program streamlines operations, improving productivity and efficiency. When employees always know precisely where daily-use items belong, they can get to work immediately without searching for what they need. They won’t have to dig through clutter when things are organized with 5S. These efficiency standards also make it easier for new hires to become productive more quickly.
Employees appreciate the organization a 5S program engenders. Everything they need is easily accessible, so there’s no frustration trying to find things. Each employee is responsible for cleaning and organizing their workspace and can often create an environment that works best for them and the organization.
Employees become more confident when interacting with co-workers because everything is organized logically and transparently. There are fewer silos and more interdepartmental communication.
A 5S program won’t cost your organization much to create and implement. All you need is an investment in employee training and periodic 5S audits.
Consider the following advice for kickstarting your 5S workplace organization:
Holly Chavez contributed to this article.