Your Ultimate Guide To 5S Lean Manufacturing Methodology

Lean Manufacturing June 05, 2022

Discover what 5S is and why it's at the heart of any good lean methodology initiatives aimed at improving manufacturing efficiency and waste reduction.

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Many manufacturers start their lean journey by implementing or attempting to implement 5S. The 5S Lean Manufacturing Methodology is ostensibly about organizing the workplace, so it’s easier to carry out the work required. The reality is that it goes deeper than just workplace organization.

Lean is about searching for and eliminating waste in all its forms. An organized workplace is one way of doing this. The term 5S refers to five Japanese words – Seiri, Seiton, Seiso, Seiketsu, and Shitsuke – that describe the organization process.

Possibly the most significant benefit of having 5S performed by workers in their workplace is that it facilitates their empowerment – they get to make the decisions – and it engenders a stronger sense of ownership of the area, work cell or department. This provides the engagement necessary to support further lean steps such as Total Productive Maintenance (TPM).

Get your very own 5S package which includes a poster, checklist and handbook.

The Steps of 5S

Western 5S Lean Manufacturing Methodology practitioners have translated the five 'S' from Japanese to English. These are sort, set in order, shine, standardize and sustain. A sixth 'S' is sometimes added to cover safety. However, while the first five describe the steps in a process, safety blends into every step. The six 'S' are:

  • SortThe five 'S' of the 5S lean manufacturing methodology.
  • Set in Order
  • Shine
  • Standardize
  • Sustain
  • Safety

Here's what's involved in each step.

Sort (Seiri)

The correct translation of Seiri is tidiness. It refers to the initial step of cleaning up a workplace. It involves looking at every tooling item, equipment, furniture, material and anything else and deciding if they're needed.

A common approach is to separate everything into four distinct piles or collections. These are:

  • Items needed all the time or almost every day.
  • Items in the wrong work area. At the end of the Sort exercise, they return to their rightful "homes."
  • Items needing further review. These often have a red tag attached.
  • Items that are definitely not required. These should be disposed of immediately.

After the exercise, items needed are placed back where they were found. Those that were red-tagged are segregated and reviewed again at a later date.

Set in Order (Seiton)

This step involves deciding on the right place for the required items. It may make sense to perform Seiton immediately after Seiri, with the work team agreeing exactly where each item should go.

One goal of Seiton is to minimize the amount of movement required in the workplace to get items when needed. Everything should be kept as close as possible to where the worker will use it. In some cases, workers may decide they need duplicate tools or other items to avoid conflicts and excess movement.

Another goal is to ensure everyone knows where each tool or piece of equipment, material or furniture is to get it when they need it.

A common approach is to group items in containers or on shelves where they can be easily accessible. Alternatively, workers may decide to create kits for performing common tasks. For example, there may be different colour-coded kits of parts for machine changeovers.

Shine (Seiso)

Seiso means cleanliness, but Shine is more fitting because it starts with an 'S.' The goal here is to have the workers clean their entire work area from top to bottom. Some lean thinkers argue it's easier to Shine straight after Sorting and before Set in Order. Whatever approach is taken, the sequence should be agreed upon and the time available made known.

Seiso includes walls and floors and the machines, guards, equipment, and even tools. The intention is to remove all the accumulated dirt and grime and bring everything back to an "as-new" condition.

Standardize (Seiketsu)

Having cleaned and organized the workplace, it needs to stay that way. This is achieved by standardizing. Standardize in the 5S system refers to defining workplaces and related equipment and documenting what should be done and how. It’s sometimes called “a place for everything and everything in its place.”

Shadow boards and floor markings are two methods of standardizing. Shadow boards indicate where tools should be placed or hung, making it immediately visible when a tool is not in the right place.

As with shadow boards for tools, floor markings intend to clarify where each piece of equipment should be—ensuring everyone knows where to find it and highlights when it’s out of position. Equipment ranging from scrap bins to tool carts and mobile hoists can be handled this way.

Standardize also includes documenting what should be in particular places and how individuals conduct the cleaning and organization tasks. For an example of the former, photos can be used on storage rackings to show what should go where. For the latter, checklists provide an easy-to-follow method of explaining what and how to do it. The addition of photos can help show the standard expected.

Sustain (Shitsuke)

Having de-cluttered, cleaned and organized the workplace with a clear system, it's time to make sure workers stick to the process. The word Shitsuke refers to discipline, which is what's needed.

The visual aids and checklists developed during the Standardize step will help, but there are two other powerful tools to consider. These are:

  • Regular 5S audits and Gemba walks to identify any deviations from the established standards.
  • Peer pressure, which is one of the significant benefits of having the workers themselves carry out the 5S exercise.

In addition, it may be helpful to make a 5S exercise an annual event. However, if the exercise was performed well the first time, diminishing returns will quickly set in.

Safety (The Sixth 'S')

Safety is something to consider at every step of a 5S exercise. Sorting might include ditching old tools and favouring new, easier, and safer versions. Likewise, Standardize may include agreeing and documenting where safety devices or PPE are stored. In addition, if an accident occurs, corrective actions could involve changes to workplace organization that eliminate trip hazards or other root causes.

The Benefits of a 5S System

5S was introduced as a lean tool for reducing waste by organizing the workplace. The main benefits of better organization are:

  • Better time usage
  • Less wasted space
  • Reduced injury rates
  • Less equipment downtime
  • Improved consistency and quality
  • Heightened employee morale

Benefits of implementing the 5S lean manufacturing methodology.

Better Time Usage

In a disorganized workplace, time is wasted searching for tools, equipment or other devices. By having "a place for everything and everything in its place," workers can go straight to the item they need without searching for it. That eliminates excess walking (one of the lean wastes) and also avoids interrupting other workers in their duties to ask if they know where something is. The result is higher productivity.

Less Wasted Space

Clearing out unnecessary material, equipment and tools and consolidating those needed frees up space. It may allow machines to be closer together, saving more movement and improving visibility so workers can see what’s going on more easily.

Reduced Injury Rates

When the right tool can’t be found, workers tend to use something else instead. This often causes accidents, such as a wrench slipping off a bolt or a screwdriver slipping out of a slot. Keeping tools where they are needed avoids the accidents such shortcuts can cause.

Keeping transparent guards clean makes them easier to use, which reduces the risk of eye injuries. Less clutter also means fewer, hopefully, no, trip hazards. In addition, there should be less movement and walking, which reduces fatigue, itself a cause of accidents.

Less Equipment Downtime

When machines are clean, problems like leaks are immediately apparent, and it’s easier to see where the leak is coming from. That leads to issues being addressed quicker before they become big problems, which reduces downtime and helps avoid breakdowns.

Improved Consistency and Quality

Standardizing work processes reduces variation and the risk of mistakes. By eliminating faults and failures, overall productivity can be dramatically improved.

Heightened Employee Morale

When the workers carry out 5S in an area, they are empowered to make changes and improvements. They see that they can make a difference and develop a heightened sense of ownership over their work area.

How Technology Can Help Support 5S

It’s easy to make the mistake of thinking 5S is “just” a housekeeping exercise. It’s not. A well-executed 5S initiative provides the foundation for implementing other components of Lean Manufacturing, such as TPM, Kaizen and Kanban.

These are both more successful when applied in an organized and standardized workplace. Getting to that point takes effort, though, so harnessing as many tools as possible is essential. In a big change from the early days of lean, technology, in the form of a connected worker platform, can help.

Connected worker solutions can be the driver and enabler for lean initiatives such as TPM by reducing the heaviness of implementation and addressing everyday challenges. Without digital support, you risk losing momentum and reaching a ceiling with your lean efforts. 

Connected workers have access to information on the machines, processes and procedures in their work area. In an example of Industry 4.0 technology, this information is made available through dedicated tablets that provide connectivity and a communications interface. One use of the platform lets workers produce and share digital checklists. Others are to access work instructions, create “how-to” guides, and request and offer help as needed.

Digital Kaizen

Kaizen refers to a continuous process of making many small changes that bring about incremental improvement. When maintained over an extended period, this can result in substantial improvements in throughput, quality, safety and thus profit.

Kaizen matches with the Sustain step of 5S. Incorporating a connected worker platform enables Kaizen to be conducted virtually, i.e. by reviewing videos, photos and work instructions for ways to make improvements. The same applies to Sustain in 5S: the connected worker tools make it easier to audit and identify exceptions and opportunities for improvement.

Digital Kanban

A Kanban is a signal to produce. It drives a “pull” production system where goods are made only when needed rather than “just in case” a customer wants them. This reduces work-in-progress inventory and the handling and storage waste that goes with it. In this regard, it’s analogous to applying the Sort step to the entire manufacturing process and not just a single work area.

Kanban signals were traditionally cards, but many other forms are possible. Digital Kanban signals improve visibility and accountability while keeping workers “in the loop” on the status of issues affecting their workplace. This encourages more sharing and solving of problems because workers understand that peers, supervisors, and managers will follow up.

Electronic Forms & Checklists

Checklists and audit forms help ensure 5S standards of workplace organization are sustained. They make it easier to identify deficiencies and provide a foundation on which to make further improvements.

Maintaining these documents in digital form offers several advantages over paper versions. They are quickly circulated and reviewed by anyone who wants to understand the current status of workplace organization, even people in other geographical locations. There are no storage issues as this is done electronically, and the forms are quickly updated whenever changes are made in the workplace, or organizational improvements are implemented.

Knowledge & Skills Management

Conducting training directly on the factory floor helps frontline workers understand the importance of each step of the 5S system and how they relate to the process of becoming leaner. Digital technology also provides a more effective method of continuous learning that keeps workers engaged while minimizing disruption to production. This means you can effortlessly implement a mandatory 5S refresher course for your workers every year without worrying about logistical issues. You can also have a bird's-eye view of who has and hasn't completed the required training.

Lean Manufacturing for Continued Success

Manufacturers looking for a way to start their lean journey often pick 5S. At the heart of the Lean Manufacturing Methodology, you find 5S, which is all about organizing the workplace to improve efficiency and reduce waste.

A more fundamental benefit of the 5S system is that it empowers frontline workers to make improvements to their workplace. This heightens ownership and boosts morale—providing the engagement needed for further lean steps like TPM, Kaizen and Kanban.

5S is aided by deploying digitally connected worker tools like Poka. This provides ready access to all relevant information on processes and machines, along with a means of creating, storing, sharing and updating checklists, audit reports and other documents. To learn more about Poka and what it could do for your business, contact us to arrange a discussion.

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