5S in Manufacturing

group of asian businessmen and women improving productivity due to 5S implementation

Before we start talking about 5S, we should consider how much time of the day we waste when looking for something. Within the personal environment, we look for items of clothing, the necessary elements to make breakfast and the car keys or the keys to the house. During working hours, we search for tools, documents, files on our computer, and supplies. I do not only refer to lost objects, but also to those which, even though we are aware of their location, are difficult to access. If we think about this carefully, we will realize that we spend more than 10% of our time in search of things.

There are three main reasons for this ceaseless search:

– That there are too many unnecessary elements

– That the place to save the elements is not defined

– That the elements are not placed in the right place after being used

5S Tool

The 5S tool bears its name because it refers to five Japanese words that seek to organize our search.

The first “S” refers to the Japanese word Seiri and it can be translated as sort. This step aims to keep only what we need and use in the workplace. For each element present in the workplace we must ask ourselves:

Do I really need this?

When was the last time I used it?

If the answers are “NO” or “DO NOT KNOW,” PLEASE REMOVE IT. We must store all those unnecessary elements elsewhere and add a label to them with their location and origin.

The second “S” refers to the word Seiton and we will translate it as order. After sorting, we need to organize what is left. The objective is not to waste time looking for items, therefore, we determine a unique place for each object.

It is important to determine the degree of use of each object in order to classify them depending on their frequency of use. This way, we will spare the most direct accesses for the most used items.

The third “S” corresponds to the word Seiso, and we will translate it as cleaning. Seiso involves more than just cleaning, it goes beyond a permanent pleasing aesthetic; Seiso requires that we do a thorough job by means of identifying hard-to-reach areas and elements that hinder the work area.

Once we have identified them, we must implement measures, since we do not only seek to attain a clean work area, but also to keep it that way.

Seiketsu is the word corresponding to the fourth “S” and we will translate it as standardization. Seiketsu seeks to develop a method to maintain the first three “S” constantly.

It is important to create visual standards that help us quickly recognize when something is not in its place.

Lastly, we will translate the term Shitsuke as discipline. To implement Shitsuke, we must ensure compliance with the standards generated in the four “S.” We seek to create a culture of sensitivity, respect, and care of the company’s resources.

Importance of 5S in Manufacturing

Nowadays, 5S is a key component of any lean manufacturing program of any industry, including the manufacturing industry.

Using 5S at your plant implies more than a better organization system and efficient flow of activities. When truly applying the 5S at your plant, you motivate operators to improve their work environment and to reduce waste at the same time.

Therefore, 5S is a lean manufacturing tool that you can apply at the factory or that you can use with your workers. It is appealing to operators since they start owning their workspace and it establishes a sense of quality, productivity, and improvement in their work life.

Benefits of Applying 5S at your Plant

If you apply 5S at your plant, you will be able to:

  • Gain more space in your facility (after getting rid of unnecessary tools and equipment)
  • Reduce waste with an improved plant design
  • Improve production quality thanks to regular machine maintenance
  • Obtain more involved operators due to enhanced responsibility at work
  • Improve safety conditions at your plant by ensuring a clean and well-maintained environment

Next Steps Towards Productivity Improvement

Learn how to take advantage of the newest technologies to take your 5S implementation to the next level and achieve an even greater productivity improvement.


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