5s is a commonly used lean manufacturing tool in optimizing the workplace. 5s is often used as the building block for lean manufacturing continuous improvement projects as not only does provide a firm base to establish improvements from but crucially it gets all the workers from the designated area involved and participating providing an excellent foundation for further initiatives..

Running a 5s event isn’t too complicated and with a little preparation an event can result in some impressive results – it also makes for a wonderful team building activity!

5 things to consider before you start your 5s event

• Which part of the business will you 5s – choose a department that will get some benefit – this will create the right buzz in the company?
• Ensure that enough time is set aside and event resources (people!) are set aside
• Produce some communication to ensure the workforce know the principles of 5s – consider giving a presentation of discussion to the chosen team – ensure you explain what the objective of the 5s session is
• Set an area aside as a “red tag area” for items to be reviewed
• Consider what storage solutions are required

Now we’re ready to kick off our 5s event

5s event – Step one – SORT

This is the fun bit – begin with establishing a criteria for items that are necessary and those that are unnecessary. Sorting gets rid of the clutter and mitigates a untidy work area being a reason for poor efficiency. Needed items can be further delineated by those that are needed often, occasionally and rarely. Necessary items are then stored where they can be easily accessed and utilized. There may be a need to identify the quantities of items needed at this stage . Unnecessary items can be funneled through a 5s red tag process.

One trick often used in this part of the process is to use people from other departments to help sort – this is a great idea as people can become emotionally attached to their work area and do not always act objectively when reviewing their workspace! If your short on staff try getting workers to swap and review each others work area.

5s event – Step Two – Straighten

The next step, following the red tag event of stage 1 is to arrange items in the workplace so they are easy to find – categorize items here into three groups – those that are needed often, those that are needed sometimes and those items that are needed rarely. Place the items that are required often within easy reach of the workspace.

Organize storage such as cupboards and shelves etc with labels to identify which tools are stored there – consider using a shadow board technique to display where specific items are to be kept.

The key objective here is to ensure that your items are easy to find and easy to replace. Using visual guides such as shadow boards minimizes errors after your 5s event has been concluded

5s event – Step Three – Scrub/Clean

Great! The third “s” is dedicated to cleaning – so get to it – scrub that workplace – remove any dirt or stains – clean any items kept as part of the sort and straighten exercises from parts 1 and 2 of the 5s.

Remember another reason for 5s is to increase safety so take a look at any areas that may need a fresh lick of paint or remarking (walkways in manufacturing plants are notorious for this!). Hopefully your workspace is already nice and clean so this won’t take too long!

5s event – Step Four – Standardize

A 5s event can be great fun – cleaning and nurturing the workspace into something that you can be proud of is very rewarding – but it can often be short lived – the fourth section of our 5s implementation – “standardize” helps to address this.

Standardization requires that procedures and communications are setup to establish a routine for 5s – use before and after photographs to show the benefits of 5s – distribute procedures to staff so that everyone is aware of what needs to be done to sustain the program. Finally ensure that the goals of 5s are well understood – this will help staff understand why 5s principles should be adhered to.

Ensure that your procedures for the maintaining of 5s principles are not over-elaborate – keep them simple and easy to follow.

5s event – Step five – Sustain

Finally ensure there are some management owners responsible for ensuring the onward success of 5s within the workspace – this should include including it in your companies policies – auditing departments to ensure new procedures are followed.

This is the most difficult part of 5s, the natural tendency is to run a 5s event benefit from short term gains and then slip back into old habits. In this final part of your 5s experience you should develop a strategy for the long term sustainment of the 5s program.

Consider running regular 5s events – use teams from established 5s areas to run “new” 5s events in non-5s departments. Consider benchmarking between teams – there are a variety of ways of ensuring that 5s can retain its focus.

The key here is to use as many visuals as possible – you can’t over communicate 5s – find 5s champions and use them to promote where possible.

Remember 5s is a key foundation of any lean organization and therefore it’s crucial that you spend the time to get this right. A Successful 5s implementation requires dedication from employees and management but the rewards can be considerable and with little effort great successes can be obtained.

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