Many manufacturing facilities have opted to follow the path towards a “5S” workplace organizational and housekeeping methodology as part of continuous improvement or lean manufacturing processes. The term refers to five steps – sort, set in order, shine, standardize and sustain – that are also sometimes known as the five pillars of a visual workplace.
The 5S methodology is a simple and universal approach that works in companies all over the world. It is essentially a support to such other manufacturing improvements as just-in-time (JIT) production, cellular manufacturing, total quality management (TQM) or six sigma initiatives, and also is a great contributor to making the workplace a safer and better place to spend time.
Key components of the 5S philosophy are safety and good housekeeping practices. Safety is an integral part of the sort, set in order and shine segment of any 5S project. Standardize and sustain refers to methods used to ensure that safety and good housekeeping is maintained. Check sheets can be used to build good habits in these areas and to ensure good housekeeping is maintained in all areas.
The Five Pillars of a Visual Workplace
5S is a system to reduce waste and optimize productivity through maintaining an orderly workplace and using visual cues to achieve more consistent operational results.1 5S programs usually are implemented by small teams working together to get materials closer to operations – right at workers’ fingertips – and organized and labeled to facilitate operations with the smallest amount of wasted time and materials.
“A place for everything, and everything in its place” is the mantra of the 5S method.
Implementing the 5S method means cleaning up and organizing the workplace in its existing configuration. It typically is the first lean method that organizations implement. This lean method encourages workers to improve their working conditions (including safety and ergonomics) and helps them to learn to reduce waste, eliminate unplanned downtime and conduct in-process inventory.
A typical 5S implementation results in significant reductions in the square footage of space needed for existing operations. It also results in the organization of tools and materials into labeled and color-coded storage locations, as well as “kits” that contain just what is needed to perform a task.2
Table 1 provides an overview of the 5 pillars, with a brief definition of what the step means in a manufacturing context, why it is important, and the list of problems it avoids if implemented.
Three-Step Process for Implementing 5S
The 5S methodology typically is implemented using a three-step process, which includes establishing a cross-functional team (including employees who work in the associated areas), touring all areas associated with the manufacturing processes under review and brainstorming ways to improve organization to reduce waste.
For example, factories usually have a great deal of waste associated with searching for items. It is not unusual for a 3-hour changeover routine to include 30 minutes of searching. When attempting to reduce changeover time radically (for example, going from 3 hours to 10 minutes), there clearly is no room for 30 minutes of searching waste.
Value stream mapping (VSM) can be used in the 5S process to analyze the material, process and information flow. The information is used to develop a current state map, which sets out how things have been done in the past. The team then analyzes the current state map to identify opportunities for workplace organization, safety and housekeeping improvements.
A wide range of ideas is considered; while all ideas won’t end up being viable, all are worthy of investigation. The key is to observe non-value-added processes and create an environment to promote value-added work through waste elimination. For example, safety identification is a key issue mapped during the VSM process. For each process step, data is collected on opportunities for safety or ergonomic improvements, in addition to tooling requirements, equipment requirements, materials required, travel distances and information requirements.