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The 5S Implementation Process in Detail

As a sincere "thank you" to our readers' loyalty since 1998, we have developed this page to provide an easy-to-follow 5S Implementation Procedure
that will help you get fast and low-cost results and get your teams to support and sustain the effort so the new clean and orderly way of having their workstation in optimal conditions will produce more quality in every way.

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A high proportion of our visitors have shown their interest into this particular discipline and asked for a more detailed explanation of the process to implement it. I strongly recommend to do this at the very beginning of your Lean Effort. It will make all the future tasks much easier and produce top results in every way.

Originally compiled by one of the Toyota Production System gurus: Iwao Kobayashi, the 5S or 5-Ss have been a valuable first step in many successful implementation processes. Many people though, frequently misunderstand or misinterpret its essence and here I will try to produce some simple guidance so that you become a champion implementer for your own benefit and that of your company.

One of the main advantages of learning this discipline is the applicability it has in every environment: you car, your garage, your kitchen, and home in general; your social life also benefits big time from this. This article will be focusing on a manufacturing environment but you will discover how easy it is to adapt the steps to any other environment. Today there is an important movement to bring the Lean Manufacturing principles of the Toyota Production System to Administrative areas (Lean Office) and to the Health Industry (Lean Healthcare). These applications will contribute to reduce their cost of operation and benefit the economy in general.

In order to have a total, measurable, and noticeable success implementing the 5S, I strongly recommend that you be very objective and focus on [ONE PARTICULAR AREA] only. Take several pictures of the area in general and some spots of special interest within the area. 

Watch Out!!! It is easy to feel very excited from the beginning as soon as we start seeing results. This excitement can make you want to Five-S every single spot or corner in your plant, home etc... Watch out! you may end up not getting the good results your effort deserves. You must be selective and concentrate all your attention and resources into one small and clearly defined area. Then your results will be of a very high impact on everyone else and you will be developing the necessary credibility for getting everyone else's support to continue the spread of this "new" culture. 

As most of the valuable components of the Toyota Production System (TPS) or Lean Manufacturing, the 5S is mostly comprised of "Common Sense" the least common of senses...

In all these steps, it will be the experience of the operators in the area where we are working that will give us the guidelines. We want them to come up with creative ideas that will make their area easier to work at. That is the essence of any Kaizen Event. 

The team of a Kaizen Event for implementing the 5S will be comprised like many others: include at least one of the users of the area, if possible add a maintenance person, at least one supervisor or leader, and whenever possible, a manager. This team should be anywhere from 4 to 8 people for a defined work area that can be as small as fewer than 100 and should not exceed 1,000 square ft.

The first S (Seiri) is for "Sort" 

This is about removing from our selected area anything that simply does NOT belong in it: broken tools or parts, trash, remains of pipe, wire, paint, brushes, oil cans; food wrappings and beverages' cans and bottles; pieces of wood, metal, paper, cord that we keep "just in case", defective products, more supplies than necessary for the next few hours of process, pieces of clothing, rags, finished or semi-finished products that are "waiting" to go to the next process, boxes, bags, etc. The team  will need to break any attachment that they feel for some of those items. "When in doubt, throw it out". 

Of course not everything that "does not belong in the area" is trash or worthless, for this reason,  we will create in advance (close by) what we call a "parking" or "red-tag" area. Indeed, some items that evidently may have some value and be useful in a different place of the plant or can be sold to someone else, we will tag using a simple "RED Label" of any size. Then all those items are carried to the "red tag area" and are made available to people from other areas of the plant where they can and will be utilized. The rest of items (worthless) will be properly disposed of. Ideally the "red tag area" will be open for only a few days, then the valuable items not needed should be moved to a warehouse and someone must take care of them to return, sell, donate, or any other alternative. This should be accomplished in a reasonable timely manner.

In many cases we find some materials or pre-assemblies that can't be processed because of a missing tool or wrong material or part. Remember: if it can't be processed in the next few hours, it does not belong in the area. It should have not been brought to it in the first place. The "owner" of each area must become aware of the importance of not allowing anyone to bring in anything that is not needed in the short term. This becomes more understandable and supported by everyone as we keep advancing in the 5S culture. Some materials, because of their nature, need to come to the area in higher volumes than strictly required, for these we must assign an appropriate rack or storage space close to the area where we can get the materials we will use in the next period of time (usually not more than 4 hours). Exception will be made if they are very small pieces like rivets, screws, etcetera, that we can hold within the reach of the operator without causing any clutter or  compromising workspace. 

Now our area has gained some space, sometimes it is a lot of space! This will let us move to...

The second S (Seiton): "Set in Place"

The old saying: "one place for everything and everything in its place" becomes the way of thinking for every team member when we enter this second phase of implementation. The goal is for anyone (when this step is finished), to find anything they may need in just a few seconds. The "place" assignment must be logical and determined by the direct user of the workstation. Some arrangements may be necessary like: racks, shelves, drawers (preferably open access ones), using the creativity of our team. Consider ease of access and ergonomic work postures, also safety is a factor. In order to assure that tools, jigs, and other repetitive-use items go back to their exact place, some visual systems will be helpful. In the case of tools, the whiteboards with shadows for each tool are excellent. in some cases we will find it convenient to utilize conventional color codes. This helps avoid confusion when there are tools that look very much alike and have differences of size or application. For major items like carts, trash cans, dollies, incoming and outgoing pallets, you may find it convenient to use delimitation lines, so they always are kept in the same spot. Shelves assigned to keep certain materials or tools should also show a clear identification that make it easy for the user to find and return them when necessary.

Carvin guitars plant, a Sample of  a well organized work area

Here we see some examples in an electronic assembly area: 

Please note: 

Boxes clearly labeled to identify their contents
Instruments securely fastened in a readable position without using table space
Standard Process Instructions for different assemblies can be easily rotated and are out of the way of the assembly surface
The roll of soldering wire is in a simple dispenser, also out of the table surface we see the soldering iron and its cleaning pad 
The operators decided in what position the parts should be stored, keeping the most frequently used closer to the point of use 

When the team achieves this orderly accommodation of everything the user may need, then the next step will be much more effective...

The third S (Seiso): "Shine" or "Super-Cleaning"

This step is very important and the team must focus not only on cleaning the area, but also find the root cause(s) or the origin(s) of contamination. The purpose is to create awareness and go to the root cause of the problem. Everyday thousands of years-labor are used to clean machines and areas that should have not gotten dirty in the first place. When the team is cleaning any part of the area, they should ask themselves: How can we prevent this to get dirty again? This will take you to discover oil leaks, lose or missing covers and opportunities to improve the behavior of everyone. We all benefit from a cleaner space. You will agree that when a surface or area is very clean, it is likely that anyone would feel uncomfortable to throw something on the floor.

This means that the third S is very useful to inspect your equipment and installations. Cleaning is inspection, after that initial effort, it will be much easier to keep the area clean. Cleanliness contributes to make the area safer and the people who work in it will be happier. Since happiness is a critical ingredient of quality, you will start getting results in the product as well.

In some cases when the area is somewhat complex, we may need to create a Standard Procedure to clean it well and keep it like that all the time. The team must establish a self-audit system and find out if any additional prevention is needed to avoid contamination and decay of the area. We do not recommend  external audits, since they are a way to send a wrong message to your people. We are talking "Autonomous Quality" here. When people are empowered to define the quality of their work and feel the responsibility to grow that quality all the time. (See Zero Quality Control)

By the end of the third S implementation, the area must have been brought up to a level of comfort, cleanliness, and orderliness never seen before. Yes, You All are Making a Difference! 

Some pictures of before and after are a great tool to boost the satisfaction and self-esteem of your team. Find a spot to publish them with pictures of the whole team.

The previous 3 Ss are a key element in the Lean Manufacturing deployment, and are of course (as any other Kaizen Event), a never ending task, since each new day is a valuable opportunity to improve something. Also it becomes easier everyday because people get used to success. 

Now you are ready for the simplest and the most difficult 4th and 5th Ss...

The fourth S (Seiketsu): "Standardize"

The new level of cleanliness and orderliness of the "Five-Sed" area is a valuable achievement of the whole team. It was not easy, I know it first-hand. Now we do not want all the team's effort to be a total waste! Likely, you need to educate and motivate some other people who did not participate in the 5 S Implementation Kaizen Event (especially at the beginning of a global implementation).  They all need to understand all the benefits that everyone will derive from a better workplace. Have them provide creative ideas to keep all the good work lasting for ever. Publish a brief note with pictures on the billboards all over the plant. 

Standardization is the assimilation of the new way of having our workstations looking, feeling, and functioning. Everyone in the company must feel they all are a part of this success, and will benefit from it. Ask for their continuous support. Top Management should address publicly the achievement and offer all the support that may be needed to continue spreading the 5S philosophy all over the organization. The 5S of an area may take just a few hours and perhaps in some cases up to several days. A motivational speech would be very appropriate at this time.

Finally the fifth S (Shitsuke): "Sustain"

Like any progress we achieve in life, it is critical to do all that it may take to preserve it. in this case, Kaizen Events are very powerful, since they imply empowerment of all the team members to follow up and support the cause.

At the time of closure of each implementation project, the members must write and say what their commitment will be in order to preserve and enhance the improvement accomplished. The closure of every Kaizen Event is a brief "Ceremony" where the Team and a Top Management group meet for about one hour, lunch time is usually very good so they all celebrate. In this closure, the Team members present the accomplishments achieved and explain what will the direct and secondary positive effects that are expected from the effort realized. This is a mutual commitment to follow up on the purpose and support of the project.

Congratulations! Repeat the dose as necessary...

Please share with us your before and after pictures and help others feel the motivation and pride of a job well done.

 Any pictures, ideas for improvement, and comments are always welcome!


5S Assignment Chart - The tool for the 5th S

We now have two Free Presentations on 5S



If you find all this free information useful, just imagine how much your operation will improve when we can work together one on one!

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