In the manufacturing industry, a lot of tools are used to implement process improvement, monitor production, and maintain safe operations. Some of these tools are industry specific, while others can be applied to any industrial process. A few of the well-known methods are: Six Sigma, HAZOPs, Lean manufacturing, and KPI. Another tool that is becoming more popular in industry is the 5S methodology which originated in Japan with Toyota. The 5S system is a workspace organizational tool comprised of five key principles to make work more efficient and safe. Each principle in the system is defined by a Japanese term beginning with the letter “S”, thus the term “5S”.
Seiri (Sort), the first principle, represents the removal of unnecessary items, anything that is not useful or in use, and evaluating which items are necessary based on cost and other factors. All necessary items must be placed in a designated area after evaluation. Sorting reduces the chance of work disturbances caused by items that are unnecessary or in the way of the workflow. The second principle, Seiton (Straighten), is the removal of wasted time by arranging things in order for smooth and easy operation. This principle can also be characterized by the term “streamlining”. After sorting and straightening the space, the next step is to shine – Seiso. During this process the workplace must be cleaned, inspected regularly, and well-maintained to prevent equipment deterioration. Together these steps ensure safe operation by keeping the manufacturing area tidy.
The final two principles in the 5S methodology stress maintaining the level set by the first three. This is done through Seiketsu (Standardize) and Shitsuke (Sustain). It is important to maintain high housekeeping standards, cleanliness, and keep everything in its designated place in order to standardize the results of Seiri, Seiton, and Seiso. Once the standards have been set, the last step is to sustain the efforts daily and strive for continuous improvement by making 5S part of the routine.
By adopting these 5S principles as a tool, any company can more efficiently manage not only their production facilities, but also warehousing and office space.