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Essential in Lean Manufacturing is The 5-S Philosophy

Todd Skaggs

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This is the finest piece of easy information about this subject that I have ever seen. Japanese Guru Iwao Kobayashi originally compiled these simple steps to create the best working environment. As companies make an effort to implement Lean Manufacturing (or the Toyota Production System TPS), they realize that the 5 S provide a higher quality of life and self-esteem for everyone in the organization, therefore there is a boost in the productivity and the quality of plant, processes, and products. The 5"S"s are explained here as a very simplified but thorough and feasible process. I am sure that you will find it excellent!  Thank you Todd.

Enrique Mora

Anyone who has recently opened a new machine shop has certainly had these thoughts: How can I improve efficiency, work organization, quality, safety and housekeeping and protect my investment at the same time? Todd Skaggs, President of Metaltek Mfg. Inc., decided that the 5S process could effectively impact the way his company did business.

Based on five Japanese words that begin with ‘S’, the 5S Philosophy focuses on effective work place organization and standardized work procedures. 5S simplifies your work environment, reduces waste and non-value activity while improving quality efficiency and safety.

Sort – (Seiri), The first S focuses on eliminating unnecessary items from the workplace. An effective visual method to identify these unneeded items is called red tagging. A red tag is placed on all items not required to complete your job. These items are then moved to a central holding area. This process is for evaluation of the red tag items. Occasionally used items are moved to a more organized storage location outside of the work area while unneeded items are discarded. Sorting is an excellent way to free up valuable floor space and eliminate such things as broken tools, obsolete jigs and fixtures, scrap and excess raw material. The Sort process also helps prevent the JIC job mentality (Just In Case.)

Set In Order (Seiton) is the second S and focuses on efficient and effective storage methods.

You must ask yourself these questions:

  1. What do I need to do my job?
  2. Where should I locate this item?
  3. How many of this item do I need?

Strategies for effective Set In Order are painting floors, outlining work areas and locations, shadow boards, and modular shelving and cabinets for needed items such as trash cans, brooms, mop and buckets. Imagine how much time is wasted every day looking for a broom? The broom should have a specific location where all employees can find it. "A place for everything and everything in its place."

Shine: (Seiso) Once you have eliminated the clutter and junk that has been clogging your work areas and identified and located the necessary items, the next step is to thoroughly clean the work area. Daily follow-up cleaning is necessary in order to sustain this improvement. Workers take pride in a clean and clutter-free work area and the Shine step will help create ownership in the equipment and facility. Workers will also begin to notice changes in equipment and facility location such as air, oil and coolant leaks, repeat contamination and vibration, broken, fatigue, breakage, and misalignment. These changes, if left unattended, could lead to equipment failure and loss of production. Both add up to impact your company’s bottom line.

Standardize: (Seiketsu) Now that the first three 5S’s have been implemented, you should concentrate on standardizing best practice in your work area. Allow your employees to participate in the development of such standards. They are a valuable but often overlooked source of information regarding their work. Think of what McDonalds, Pizza Hut, UPS, Blockbuster and the United States Military would be without effective work standards.

Sustain: (Shitsuke) This is by far the most difficult S to implement and achieve. Human nature is to resist change and more than a few organizations have found themselves with a dirty cluttered shop a few months following their attempt to implement 5S. The tendency is to return to the status quo and the comfort zone of the "old way" of doing things. Sustain focuses on defining a new status quo and standard of work place organization. Please give us your evaluation below...

Your company can have the services and continuous support of a Lean Manufacturing Expert without having to pay for one!

Once fully implemented, the 5S process can increase morale, create positive impressions on customers, and increase efficiency and organization. Not only will employees feel better about where they work, the effect on continuous improvement can lead to less waste, better quality and faster lead times. Any of which will make your organization more profitable and competitive in the market place. We can help you get started and have a successful 5-S Implementation.


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