Applying Lean Principles – 5S

In Jeff Miller’s CSIA 2010 presentation, he proposed using the same lean manufacturing principles to their own processes as a system integration company. The last method that he described was the 5S Principle.

So, what are the 5S?

‘5S’ is the name of a workplace organization methodology that uses a list of five Japanese words which are Seiri, Seiton, Seiso, Seiketsu and Shitsuke. Translated into English, start with the letter S. The list describes how items are stored and how the new order is maintained. The decision making process usually comes from a dialogue about standardization which builds a clear understanding among employees of how work should be done. It also instills ownership of the process in each employee.

  • Sorting: Eliminate all unnecessary tools, parts, instructions. Go through all tools, materials, etc., in the plant and work area. Keep only essential items. Everything else is stored or discarded.
  • Setting in Order: There should be a place for everything and everything should be in its place. The place for each item should be clearly labeled and arranged in a manner that promotes efficient work flow with each tool kept close to where it will be used.
  • Shine: Keep the workplace tidy and organized. At the end of each shift, clean the work area and be sure everything is restored to its place. Maintaining cleanliness should be part of the daily work – not an occasional activity initiated when things get too messy.
  • Standardizing: Work practices should be consistent and standardized. Everyone should know exactly what his or her responsibilities are for adhering to the first 3 S’s.
  • Sustaining: Maintain and review standards. Once the previous 4 S’s have been established, they become the new way to operate. Do not allow a gradual decline back to the old ways. While thinking about the new way, also be thinking about yet better ways..
  • Safety (Sometimes added): It is reasonable to assume that a properly planned and executed 5S program will inherently improve workplace safety, but some argue that explicitly including this sixth S ensures that workplace safety is given primary consideration.

Applying the 5S Principle

Obviously, your shop area may work best, but you can apply them to any shared work area. The big key is everything has a place and it is in its place (e.g. tool shadow boards to demark areas for things to set so you can always find them. Also include one point lessons at the work area to show how to do the job in simple terms. And, design the entire work areas for flow with the only needed tools in the area.

The end result is not only less wasted and cluttered space. But improve work flow and efficiency. Things always have a place and you immediately notice when they are missing. In addition, you can identify unnecessary items,  red tag for removal, and get rid of it in a couple weeks if a need is not identified.


2 Responses to Applying Lean Principles – 5S

  1. You can apply 5S or 6S in any part of your company. They are as applicable in your offices and even for organizing your files on your computer as they are in any manufacturing environment. The more companies that would apply the various lean tools the less companies we would see failing or having to outsource work overseas.

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