The 5S system can be a valuable tool for any business setting, but has been seen to bring considerable advantages to a manufacturing environment in particular. Initially coined by Toyota, the 5S principles are Japanese but are easily transferable and translatable to English-speaking environments;
- Seiri = Sort
- Seiton = Systematize
- Seiso = Shine
- Seiketsu = Standardise
- Shitsuke = Sustain
In a factory setting, these five elements can hugely optimise the manufacturing process, while helping to ensure that health and safety building regulations are met.
The first step for 5S in manufacturing is to sort. This literally means sorting through the items in your work space and evaluating what you need and what you can get rid of. Over time, clutter can accumulate so much so that you might not even be aware of the different items you have. By throwing away things you no longer need you can create space and begin to organise the items left. There could be doubt as to the necessity of some items. If this is the case, consider storing them in a ‘maybe pile’ of sorts, and assess their use over the coming weeks and months to then decide if they should stay or go.
After you have sorted your items and you know what you need to keep, the next step is to put a system into place which determines where equipment should be stored. By making sure every item has its place, you can help smooth the manufacturing process as staff will be aware of where to find things and where to return them. You can also order things in the most helpful manner – place commonly used items in an easily-accessible area, and equipment that is not used a lot can be stored away. The installation of a mezzanine can be advantageous in this stage of the 5s system, as these allow you to make use of existing space and encourage a helpful flow in the manufacturing process; i.e. storing equipment on a physical route in the areas where it will be used.
This step in the process calls for cleaning and fixing any problems. After your equipment has been sorted and organised, next you should tidy up the work space and ensure everything is clean and usable. By doing this you will enable employees to properly carry out their tasks in a timely fashion, and help them to identify further problems with the functionality of equipment. It will also encourage them to maintain the upkeep of the clean and organised work environment.
Manufacturing efficiency can be improved by introducing a level of standardisation throughout the process. This means anything that must be carried out multiple times should be done so in the same way, thereby increasing the likelihood of continued success when things go well. Adhering to a process also enables staff to easily identify any issues that may arise within the process. When the optimal process has been identified, this should be put into place as a standard which is taught to new employees, and followed by existing staff. The chosen standards should be regularly checked in order to ensure they are being met.
The last step in Toyota’s 5S system is to simply to sustain it. In a manufacturing or warehouse setting, there should ideally be a member of staff whose sole role it is to ensure the whole 5S process is continuously being actioned. This means that all the 5S steps should be intermittently addressed – whether this means quarterly ‘sorting’ sessions, or a weekly time to ‘shine’ the work space. By adhering to the 5S process consistently, you encourage staff to not only work efficiently, but also take pride in their work environment.
Applying 5S to a manufacturing situation can certainly help to create a smooth, efficient, and well-organised work process. The benefits of this can include a safer work environment, higher productivity, a happier staff, and fewer errors throughout the procedures. Consider how to apply this tried and tested mechanism to your work space, or even your home environment, to help stay organised.