Guest Post: 5S-ing: The First Step to Safety

Today’s guest post comes from Danielle M.  She has been a dedicated student of Lean Manufacturing methodologies since 2006. It was love at first sight when she read the motto, “Everything has a place; everything in its place” in her first copy of The Toyota Way.

We are always looking for ways to reduce costs and increase productivity. Maybe it’s time to grab a broom and clean up our act! The 5S methodology is one way to organize your facilities to get the most out of your space. Japanese manufacturing created this method to reduce shop floor and manufacturing accidents and waste, and increase productivity.

The five points on which 5S focuses are:

  • Sort
  • Set in Order
  • Shine
  • Standardize
  • Sustain

While it’s obvious to most that an organized environment is a “better” environment, in practice, we don’t do this very often. The 5S method is based on the simple premise that an organized (shop floor, factory, construction site, etc.):

  • is more productive
  • is safer
  • meets deadlines
  • generates fewer defects
  • is less chaotic

Each of the 5S steps contributes to improving the safety and productivity of the physical environment. So grab your broom and trash can and let’s get started!

Keep Only What You Need – Discard the Rest (Sort)

This is the opposite of the “pack rat” who saves everything because “we might need it some day.” The result is a shop floor or warehouse cluttered with items you can’t use and are just taking up space. We waste time looking for what we need in the middle of all the junk we’ve accumulated. Boxes of lose parts sit in the aisle and block exits creating safety hazards. Prioritize all that stuff. Keep what you need and get rid of the rest.

Create a Home for Everything (Set in Order)

Once the clutter is gone, put everything in its own place, mark it properly and document where it is. We take care to put customer products in their proper bins with the correct SKU, but tools, equipment and supplies don’t get the same attention. Hardware retailers often set up their inventory based on the type of equipment the user is looking for; this type of methodology also carries over to the workplace so that workers know or can learn where equipment is at all time. Every time someone has to search for something because it’s not in the right place is lost productivity. The new guy is always asking where something is!

Keep Things Clean (Shine)

Work and storage areas all need to be clean. It’s not just cosmetic; things work better when they’re clean and well maintained. While it may be the last thing employees do at the end of the day, keeping things clean is still a priority. Leaks and spills can be dangerous and create a safety hazard. Create a standard of cleanliness for an area and make sure it gets that treatment everyday.

Create Repeatable Processes (Standardize)

As your efforts to implement 5S produce results, document this and create procedures to be followed each shift to keep things that way. Be as organized with your documentation as you were with your shop floor/warehouse. Your procedure manual puts the broom in the hands of your employees to do their part.

Creating discipline in the work place means giving your employees the same procedures, same tools and same work spaces in which to be productive. Productivity is easier to measure when everyone is working from the same page. Make sure that page is clear to everyone!

Evaluate and Make Needed Changes (Sustain)

A key to the 5S methodology working is continual evaluation and improvement. Where are there still code violations, employee safety hazards or other impacts to productivity? Change what’s not working and modify what is working to make it work better. There are many procedure manuals just sitting on the shelf collecting dust because they are outdated. Don’t let yours join the clutter!

Using the 5S method means taking a few simple steps to get the most out of what you already have. Create a leaner environment in which employees are safer and more productive. The broom is in your hands!

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Posted on August 9, 2012, in Guest Post, Safety, Tools and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. My understanding of 5S is that the primary goal is to allow us to see problems. Everything else comes from that.

  2. Jason,

    Great point! When everything has a place and something is not in it’s place, you can immediately tell there is a problem.

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