5S (5S Definition) is a cornerstone of any lean manufacturing implementation, either applied within your manufacturing environment, office processes or even within a service industry, but what are the benefits of implementing the 5S process? Without 5S your company will not have the right foundations on which to build any form of business improvement philosophy.
The 5S Process
The 5S process is a very simple methodical team based approach to organizing your work space to ensure that it is tidy, arranged ergonomically, efficient and capable of repeatable, quality output. It does this through a simple five stage process, each step starting with the letter “S” hence the name 5S.
The 5S process is not one that can be forced onto an area by an outsider, it a process of improvement that is conducted by the people that work within the area itself. They become responsible for and have ownership of all of the improvements and changes that they implement. It is an ongoing process of improvement, not just a once off event to tidy everything up before a customer visit, if you find yourself still having to conduct clean ups prior to visits then you have not implemented 5S!
Benefits of 5S
The benefits of 5S for Lean are significant, it is suggested that efficiency gains of the order of 10% to 30% can be achieved, and certainly within my experience of handling many 5S program implementations these levels of success have always been achieved, even in companies that already claim to have implemented 5S.
The reasons for these gains in efficiency are many fold and stem from a number of benefits driven by the implementation of 5S;
Due to the removal of all but the necessary items in a work area during the first stage of 5S you remove many instances of the waste of waiting and motion as items are easier to find and you do not have to get around unnecessary clutter.
The second stage of 5S results in ensuring that items (components, equipment, tools, machines, people) are located in the most ergonomic and thus efficient (and safer) positions. This eliminates many of the seven wastes of manufacturing. The operators do not have to search for things as the use of shadow boards and clear visual identification ensure that things are immediately to hand and obvious. These items are located as close to where they are needed and at the correct most ergonomic height and orientation to minimize handling.
The third stage of 5S ensures that the work place remains clear of clutter and that any signs of malfunction become more obvious leading to actions being taken to prevent more serious breakdowns and other delays.
The forth and most important step is that of standardization, wherein you ensure that there are standard ways of working. This ensures that everyone uses the most efficient work method and that there are clear standards. This prevents delays, defects and other wasteful occurrences
The right tools in the right place, the correct methods and standards, and a motivated workforce means that you will have a far more efficient and less wasteful working environment. The visual management aspects ensure that anyone can see if there are problems such as things missing, in the wrong location and so on.
The 5th stage, sustain, ensures that this continues on an ongoing basis and that it remains everyone’s responsibility; this ensures that there is no slippage and that you continue to challenge what you do and make improvements through the constant involvement of your staff.
In addition to these benefits, you will have a visually more pleasing environment that will serve as a significant marketing tool from which to be able to sell your company.