What are some examples of the Differences between 5S and 6S?

While 5S and 6S both have a goal of optimizing the workplace, they each have differences in approach and application. Below you can find an explanation of 5S and 6S with a real-life example of when each would be used in a workplace scenario, helping to bring the uses of the methodologies to life. The key differences between the two methodologies will also be discussed.

5S Methodology

The primary objective of 5S is to eliminate waste, creating a more efficient workplace while improving health and safety. With the 5 principles being sort, set in order, shine, standardize, and sustain, the systematic methodology focuses on eliminating unnecessary clutter to maximize efficiency and subsequently improve processes. The methodology requires continuous improvement; proactively being repeated to maintain an organized approach that manages waste effectively.

An example of a company who would benefit from implementing 5S could be an office-based estate agent who has employees continuously dashing in and out between site visits and customer appointments. If they are having to rummage through outdated documents, sets of keys, or unused contracts to find what they are looking for, improving their workstation using the 5S methodology could create a world of difference. By clearing out clutter and creating organized storage systems, all employees in the business can save time on searching for what they need so they can provide a better service to customers.

6S Methodology

To take the 5S methodology one step further and introduce 6S, the principles become sort, set in order, shine, standardize, safety, and sustain. The 6S methodology is a necessity in organizations where more hazards are present, putting the emphasis of organization on creating a safety culture, which in turn minimizes risk.

A business who would likely choose 6S over 5S would be a laboratory dealing with hazardous chemicals. The process of sorting, setting in order, shining, and standardizing remains the same, but then safety is introduced before the sustain principle. This could consist of identifying the potential hazards that are present in the workplace and training all employees on the measures needed to prevent incidents. These processes may result in the introduction of storage areas for hazardous chemicals or improved ventilation systems that help maintain a safe working environment.

Notable differences 

The most obvious separation between 5S and 6S is the safety focus, being arguably the main aspect of the 6S methodology. While 5S does still consider safety at the baseline, it does not put as much emphasis on the need to resolve any potential safety hazards or provide sufficient training to employees. For example, if a construction company were to implement 5S, they would see an improvement in how their tools are stored and looked after, but would likely not dive as far as training employees on working with heavy duty machinery or using the correct PPE.

Another one of the main differences that separates 6S from 5S is the level of employee involvement. The process involves everyone in the company being able to identify and respond to safety issues on an ongoing basis, creating more of a cultural shift in accordance to 5S. As well as a business owner creating a workplace with reduced hazards through improved organization and efficient processes, the 6S principles mean employees are also adopting new ways of working moving forward.


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