5S in a nutshell.
The 5S (or five s’s) is often the first lean method organizations implement when they commit to ongoing process improvement. The method was first developed in Japan as a means to enable just in time (JIT) production. 5S is often talked about in the context of Kaizen, lean six sigma, and standardization.
5S stands for:
2. Set in Order
You might also come across the original five s’s in Japanese: seiri (整理), seiton (整頓), seisō (清掃), seiketsu (清潔), and shitsuke (躾).
5S Standard Operating Procedures.
This first pillar focuses on removing clutter and keeping unnecessary items out of the production area. Typically, organizations use a system called “red-tagging” to identify these items and ensure quick sorting and removal.
Documenting the criteria for “red-tagging” and providing clear instructions about what to do with these items is very important. Consider things like:
- What type of items should be scrapped?
- Which ones should be stored?
- Where should they be placed to minimize workplace disruption and avoid "walking waste"? Accessible and digital Standardized work instructions can be very valuable here.
Access and structure are key when talking about the "sorting" aspect of 5S Standard Operating Procedures.
2. Set in Order
This pillar is all about organizing the items you need and putting them in the optimal place. It includes:
- Placing items at the right height to facilitate picking or grabbing.
- Ensuring that they are visible so you can easily identify them when they need to be used.
- Make sure you provide visual cues in your work instructions, so employees know exactly how to set things in the right way.
The location and visibility of 5S standard operating procedures is crucial when "setting in order".
Once the clutter is out of the way and items have been properly organized, you need to make sure your workplace is clean.
The importance of cleanliness cannot be understated. It enables employees to notice equipment malfunctions or misalignments quickly and avoid contamination or quality breaches. A clean environment also allows them to move more efficiently across the shop floor.
Providing standardized and digitized work instructions or checklists can make a big difference here too, especially if you’re dealing with expensive equipment.
For instance, your employees need to know exactly how to clean a machine if they want to prevent failures and downtime.
Checklists provide practical guidance of cleaning inspections in the "shine" aspect of 5S SOPs.
To make sure you carry out the first 3 pillars of 5S correctly, you need to provide a consistent approach that employees can follow.
An important prerequisite here is giving employees standardized guides and checklists, as well as supporting documentation so that they can integrate these best practices into their work routine.
Read more about standardization in these articles:
- Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) Best Practices & Guidelines.
- Standard Operating Procedures: 5 Reasons Why You Need Them.
- What is a Standard Operating Procedure?
Last but not least, you need to make the 5S a habit.
This is the most difficult part, as changing innate behaviors can be hard.
Start by providing standardized operating procedures and training. This will make it easier for employees to embrace these best practices. It also helps to empower employees with the right tools.
For example, rather than using long and dusty manuals that are difficult to go through, give them a tablet with digitized procedures, or provide the instructions using mobile-first tools.
Learn more about 5S and SOPs: