5S is a popular tool used in lean manufacturing environments and its primary benefit is its simple approach. 5S is a systematic approach to workplace organization. It is a philosophy that changes the culture of the work environment, and can help in many facets of any business. Originally developed by Hiroyuki Hirano for manufacturing companies in Japan, 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 the 5S model provides.
When an entire organization embraces the ideals of 5S it is easy to see a transformation in efficiency of the company. As your company follows the steps in the 5S system, not only will your floors seem brighter, but your future will as well.
Phase 1 - 整理 Seiri (Sorting): This is a process to get rid of any unnecessary tools and equipment items from the workplace area. Everything else is either discarded or stored. This step is crucial to achieving greater efficiency through workplace design.
Phase 2 - 整頓 Seiton (Set in Order): This process focuses on organizing work areas for maximum efficiency by organizing tools & equipment to promote optimum workflows through minimizing movement. For instance, all tools & equipment should be located as close as possible to where they'll be needed, and processes should be designed to maximize efficiency. For example, if a tool is only to be used at the end of a machine, that's where it should be located.
Phase 3 - 清掃 Seisō (Sweeping): This method relates to maintaining a disciplined, systematic approach to ensure a clean & tidy workplace and maintained machines. When every shift ends, work areas are tidied and tools and equipment are returned to their designated locations. This should be carried out every day, rather than become an ad-hoc activity that is introduced when things become disorganized. This principle also suggests that by regularly cleaning machinery and keeping it close to its original condition, its efficiency and quality will not be greatly affected. Machinery that is maintained and in good condition experiences less downtime and will produce quality levels which are very close to new machinery.
Phase 4 - 清潔 Seiketsu (Standardizing): This requires that work practices are followed in a uniform and consistent manner. Many companies have followed the first three Ss many times, only to see conditions slowly deteriorate. The “Standardize” part of 5s addresses this issue. It's better described as the “what, when, whom, where” of 5S. For instance, when a specific machine needs to be maintained, there should be a system (typically checklists and documented instructions) that details what needs to be done, when it must be done, by whom and where.
Phase 5 - 躾 Shitsuke (Sustain the system): The process of sustaining the system is considered to be the most difficult S to accomplish. Years of experience showed that maintaining the other 4S' did not always happen. Maintaining a strong focus on this innovative method of working is essential to prevent slipping back into old habits and poor productivity. One method of sustaining the system is to carry out regular audits, although care must be taken to avoid a system that isn't punitive. The 5S system relies on staff involvement and commitment at every level, and an audit that punishes people will potentially destroy the good that should arise from the audit.
A good 5S implementation has several advantages. The company's assets are kept in good working order. Quality is maintained to levels similar to when plant and equipment was first bought. Maintenance costs are less because deterioration is identified quickly, and the work environment is kept organized which allows for more productivity.