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The 5S System: Increasing Workplace Productivity

There is always a better way to run your business. The 5S+2S Continuous Improvement method (a form of Lean thinking) focuses on effective workplace organization and standardized work procedures. Initially developed in Japan, adopting 5S+2S represents a change in the mindset of your company and the attitude with which you approach it. It is about maintaining standards and disciplines, achieved by an atmosphere of respect toward the workers and the workplace itself.

The Basics of the 5S System

1. Sort

How much floor space are you using to store items? How much time do you use searching for just the right tool, part or fixture? The Sort phase of 5S+2S addresses this first crucial issue. Every item in the work area is considered for its utility (Do I really use this?) and its placement (Is this really the best place for this item?).

Quick Tips for Sorting

  • Only keep the items deemed absolutely necessary in the work area
  • Remove all non-critical items to a temporary holding area until you decide what you really need, where you are going to relocate it, and what you can throw away
  • Use visual aids such as red tags to identify removed items

2. Straighten

After discarding non-essential clutter from the work area, it is necessary to create efficient, clearly identified storage areas for the items that remain on-hand. Determine the best location for each item, considering the most efficient access point for that particular tool or object. There must be a place for everything, and everything must be in its place.

Quick Tips for Straightening

  • Clearly identify which items are needed for a particular job or process
  • Label, paint or mark storage areas to clearly depict which objects belong where
  • Create shadow boards to assist with ongoing organization

3. Shine

Thoroughly clean the entire work area. This ensures proper care for all of your tools and equipment, as well as setting the expectation for continued cleanliness. Workers take pride in a clean and clutter-free work area; daily cleanliness and upkeep will assist in creating a sense of ownership of the equipment and the facility.

Quick Tips for Shining

  • Scrub down work areas, equipment and tools
  • Repair or replace anything not in working order
  • Establish daily operator equipment care standards to maintain the standard of cleanliness

4. Standardize

Decide what the best practices are for your workplace productivity. Allow everyone to participate in the development of these practices; by asking for collaboration from the people who perform these tasks you can identify what works and what doesn’t in your current workflow. Then create standardized procedures and responsibilities that encapsulate these best practices while eliminating problems.

Quick Tips for Standardizing

  • Post the standardized processes in highly visible, task-relevant places
  • Ensure everyone understands the importance of their participation
  • Create simple daily checklists in each work area to ensure requirements are being met

5. Sustain

5S is all about ongoing improvement. Sustaining in 5S is all about ensuring the new process is being followed and continually reviewed for further development. Regular review of the implementation – are the checklists being used, are the work areas being cleaned, is the work flowing in the way we predicted – is at the heart of sustaining 5S + 2S. This also opens the door to identify and improve areas that still need to be streamlined or altered in some way.

Quick Tips for Sustaining

  • Create an inspection checklist to make sure all the new processes are being followed and review it regularly
  • Review problem areas as they come upCreate an inspection checklist to make sure all the new processes are being followed and review it regularly
  • Motivate workers to take ownership of workplace rules through coaching and team-building

+1. Safety

Unsafe work environments reduce productivity and can be very costly. Safety in the workplace includes adherence to regulatory compliance standards, as well as purposeful minimizing of potentially hazardous situations for workers. By creating a safe place to work, organizations not only curb potential financial loss, but also demonstrate respect for their employees and facilities.

+2. Security

Security measures must be included in daily practices to ensure safe, productive, profitable work environments. Organizations should recognize non-secure practices, and take steps to eliminate risks associated with unsupervised visitors, potential larceny or theft. By implementing a plan for safety, your organization can reach its fullest potential for success.

Why 5S Lean Systems

The items in the 5S+2S system are simple, yet invaluably effective. Its effectiveness lies in setting high standards for the workplace, and creating an atmosphere that promotes meeting those expectations. By eliminating clutter and maintaining clean, working equipment, workers begin to take more pride in the space they occupy. Since operations become more streamlined, more time is spent producing rather than being wasted with unnecessary activities. With an attitude of upkeep and regular reassessment, 5S can maintain this high level of efficiency while also adapting to your company’s changing needs.

The information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This article is not a substitute for review of current applicable government regulations, industry standards, or other standards specific to your business and/or activities and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.