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Eddie Wang
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October 07, 2019

What is 5S? [Lean Manufacturing Guide]

What is 5S?

Sort, Set, Shine, Standardize, Sustain [Lean Manufacturing Guide]

There’s a good chance you’ve come across the term 5S at some point or another. We've created this short guide to help you better understand the basic aspects of 5S principles. Learn how to implement these practices by using mobile and web apps that work directly with your spreadsheet and databases. 

The 5S Methodology

The 5S methodology originated from the manufacturing technique developed through the Toyota Production System. The heads of the Toyota Motor Company created a clear and distinct set of actions that would improve the quality of products and services offered to the public. 

5S is closely related to the Toyota Production System. Both models work to create positive outcomes from untidiness, chaos, and disorganization in the workplace.

By training employees to follow a more productive routine and utilizing the right equipment for the job, factories can substantially reduce unnecessary waste. The primary aim of 5S is to generate these minor positive changes throughout the company’s everyday procedures.

Digital Manufacturing

5S Elements Explained

5S is a methodology more commonly known in western cultures as “Lean Manufacturing” or just “Lean." Technically, however, 5S is slightly different from Lean Manufacturing. 5S is a way of coordinating the workspace so that employees not only produce better results, but also practice and maintain safer working conditions.

Businesses large and small from every industry can adopt the 5S method to optimize their operations, do away with clutter, and promote better cleanliness and organization. Let’s look at each element of the 5S approach in more detail.

1: Sort (Seiri)

The purpose of Sort is to help categorize resources by priority. Think of it as a super-detailed stock audit where front-line workers find, identify, and sort machinery, supplies, and even basic office stationery.

After organizing each set of items, employees must answer key questions for each item in question including: access/security for an item, importance of a particular business operation, and whether or not the item could be upgraded to something more fitting.

Once the usefulness of each item has been calculated, there are several options regarding which action should be taken. The item could either be transferred to a more appropriate division, stripped down for parts, placed in storage for later use, or put up for sale.

In a situation where certain articles of company resources can’t be clearly defined as useful or useless, the item can be “red-tagged." Place an informative note on the item with details such as when it was categorized, who evaluated it, where it was situated, and any other relevant information. After a designated amount of time has passed, items from the “red tag area” can be re-evaluated to determine whether or not they should be kept.

2: Set in Order (Seiton)

Now, it will be a lot simpler to begin the process of organizing everything that employees have at their disposal. Each person’s requirements should clearly delineate which items they’ll need in order to do their job. A logical pattern of where and how to store resources should begin to surface.

Better organization will help create less waste. Prime examples of avoidable waste include product imperfections, excessive time expenditure, surplus resource management, unnecessary movement, unsuitable employee skill allocation, and excess inventory. Much like an athlete stays lean and only carries the body fat they require to function adequately, this part of lean manufacturing can be thought of as the process of optimally storing and utilizing a company’s resources.

3: Shine (Seiso)

This is one of simplest, yet often most underestimated aspects of a high-functioning operation. A fundamental component of a well-oiled machine is making sure that everything is neat and tidy. Keeping a clean working environment is crucial for running a smooth workflow, as well as strengthening employee morale. Repairing and looking after machinery, tools, and other equipment is also a part of this stage.

In addition to having good cleaning staff, each and every employee should also pay attention to how they manage their work station. If every person helps make their surroundings a little bit cleaner and safer, there will be less waste and a lower potential for injuries and hazardous accidents.

4: Standardize (Seiketsu)

In the standardize phase, employees must turn these new practices into a consistent mindset and repeated actions. Without consistent reinforcement of these principles, it is easy for factory conditions to devolve. These patterns of maintenance and cleanup need to be ingrained into the everyday behavior of every employee.

It can be helpful to set up schedules, diagrams, notes, charts, reminders, and checklists to assert the importance of a functional and well-structured system. Setting high standards and holding yourself and employees to them is the mark of any significantly successful endeavor.

5: Sustain (Shitzuke)

A quality business model has to be based on a long-term vision. Reaching the company objectives means looking ahead and doing whatever it takes to achieve those goals. The standard of how the business is run doesn’t just need to be managed, it needs to be updated regularly as well.

Every employee has to be driven to conscientiously put their best foot forward on a daily basis. As the rate of change in the business world continues to accelerate, executives and employees alike must stay vigilant of changes and adopt a healthy growth mindset.

How 5S Fits Within The Kaizen Philosophy

5S is an approach that falls within a bigger philosophy called Kaizen, which is a Japanese term that translates to “continuous improvement”. It’s a principle adopted in the business world that is designed to maximize the efficiency of the workplace, as well as the overall morale of the employees. 

Kaizen a concept that encourages white-collar and blue-collar employees alike to adopt ownership mindsets toward the company’s mission. It involves establishing a team-oriented way of thinking, evolving methods of daily operations, improving employee fulfillment, and ensuring a safe working environment. 

5S is a very important component within this philosophy because it helps achieve the primary objectives of Kaizen such as:

  • Teamwork: Every employee should be dedicated to helping each other successfully complete their tasks. Each individual should think of themselves as part of a larger unit that requires cooperation and dedication to put forth the best results possible.
  • Discipline: Instill a sense of responsibility in each employee so that they are committed to doing their job in a timely and accurately manner. Everyone must accept accountability for their role in the company so that order can be established and weak links can be fortified wherever necessary.
  • Morale: Management should construct positive reinforcement techniques to inspire employees to work harder and smarter. This could include forming a more comfortable work environment, more frequent opportunities for promotions, medical aid, end-of-year bonuses, or even gym memberships.
  • Quality circles: Setting up meetings where employees can collaborate with one another and discuss pertinent concepts, methods, or skill sets will help each person better assess each individual’s abilities, strengths, and shortcomings.

5S and Six Sigma

5S and Six Sigma are often linked to each other, even though there a few differences between them. However, both can be used to achieve improved productivity in the workplace.

Six Sigma is a controlled, methodical tactic designed to form an ongoing improvement strategy to minimize waste and imperfection, and maximize efficiency and productivity. These methods aim to advance the standard operating procedure to limit faults in the manufacturing system, and increase the caliber of the end product as well as the tasks that are performed in the process.

While Lean Manufacturing focuses more on enhancing the organization of a company, Six Sigma is more oriented towards getting rid of product defects by following a thorough business plan. 

In comparison to the 5S system, Six Sigma supports another very similar approach: Recognize, Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control, Standardize, and Integrate.

5S and Digitization

If you've been tasked with implementing 5S or 5S audits at your company, consider digitizing your management processes. Manufacturers around the world are use AppSheet to build their own web and mobile apps without code to to keep their operations safe, efficient, and productive. 

Check out the manufacturing audits app below to learn more:

Copy the machine audits app

 Our sample Job Site Safety app is another app that can help you achieve your 5S methodology. The app was originally designed for construction companies, but can be customized to help track accidents and near-misses at manufacturing sites as well.

Copy the safety reporting app

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