What is 5S?

5S is one of the most popular methodologies to maximise efficiency on your shop floor. In later years, a sixth S has been added to this approach to include safety.

Today, we talk about how the 5S system helps you create robust standards, increase safety and efficiency, and optimise your daily industrial operations.

What is 5S?

5S is a core methodology to lean manufacturing which was first implemented in Toyota’s Production System (TPS) in the 60s.

This method aims to help factories achieve operational excellence and reduce waste consistently. Some of the benefits of implementing this approach are:

  • Higher quality products
  • Reduced production costs
  • Productivity increase
  • Greater employee satisfaction
  • Safer work environment

The 5S method comes from five Japanese words, namely Seiri, Seiton, Seiso, Seiketsu, and Shitsuke. Let’s take a closer look at their meaning and implementation.

Implementing the 5S method

The 5S model maximises productivity and increases safety while reducing production costs. It can be implemented in a few easy steps following the 5S principles:

Seiri — Sort

The first S in the 5S method is essential to avoid waste and optimise the workspace.

Executing this first step right—or S— is crucial for the success of the whole process, as the 5S are intertwined and only work if the previous steps are implemented correctly.

Getting started with the first S is easy: just keep all the tools you use daily and store away anything you don’t use on a daily basis.

To make sure you implement this first step right, you need to catalogue the tools in your workplace, and then set the frequency with which they’re used. The best way to do this is by tasking the workers using the workspace to do this.

Once you know what materials are essential for the daily functioning of the workspace and which ones are not, we then move to the next step, known as red tagging.

In this phase, we write a red sticker filled with essential information about the item we don’t need to use regularly. We then store it away until we need to use it again. If we think we won’t use it anymore, we can shelve it. 

Here’s a graphic you can use to determine if an item needs to be red-tagged or not.

What is 5S: Sort

Seiton  — Set in order

Once the working materials have been sorted, it’s time to set the actual space in order. This ensures that your workspace is using space efficiently in a way that maximises safety and productivity.

To get started with this, you need to define what’s the most logical layout for your workspace to complete routine tasks effectively. 

When you’ve chosen the space you want to set in order, you then need to think about what’s necessary to ensure that there’s no doubt as to where everything is, and that, if anything was to be missing, it’d be noticed instantly.

To do this, think about the tasks, their sequence, and frequency. This will help you plan your layout in the most logical way to create an efficiently organised work area.

This means there has to be an allocated place for everything, and everything must be in its place, creating a space where workers can move around safely, and where there is a clearly defined frequency of use of the inventory.

For this stage to be successful, it’s important to make sure that the four principles of movement economy — also known as the pillars of standardisation— are present:

  • Reduced number of moves
  • Simultaneity of movements
  • Reduce travel distances
  • Make movements easier and more ergonomic

To make sure everything in this workspace is clearly defined and in the place where it belongs, materials, equipment, and tools should be colour-coded to make visual control easier.

At this point, it’s essential to ensure that all tools and equipment are accessible and colour-coded —or visually identifiable— and that all spaces have set boundaries.

It’s also essential to make sure that there aren’t any closed cabinets, and that the transit and stock areas are clearly visually signalled. 

Seiso — Shine

Now that we’ve sorted the equipment and set the space in order, it’s time to make it shine.

The goal of the third S is to have a clean working area.

The best way to go around this is to follow three easy steps:

  1. Identify the source of uncleanliness 
  2. Create cleaning standards 
  3. Eliminate or minimise the source of dirt

This process doesn’t just involve cleaning as such, but also regular maintenance work to prevent situations that can cause dirt and accidents, such as spillages.

The best way to do this is by making sure every worker is keeping up with basic cleaning, and not just delegating this task to the cleaners. 

Cleaning your own equipment and workspace helps prevent breakdowns, accidents, and damage in parts. It also helps find anomalies in the means of production and increases the quality of work and productivity.

Here’s a list of tips to maximise your implementation of the third S:

  • Use hoods and casings to avoid projections
  • Hoovering is better than blowing when it comes to keeping the space clean
  • Create a rational circulation of liquids and parts through different channels
  • Control the items that are more likely to become sources of dirt, such as barrels
  • Make sure cleaning points are easily accessible to everyone

What are the 5s, Lean Manufacturing

Seiketsu — Standardise

Once you’ve sorted your equipment, set the workspace in order, and made it shine, it’s time to standardise your process.

The objective of the first 3S is to build the state of reference you need to reach the first level of efficiency in terms of selection, order, ad cleanliness.

Standardisation is essential to ensure the standards you set are being enforced, and that old habits aren’t creeping back.

The best way to standardise your operations is by following the next steps:

  • Formalise the state of reference in the workspace using visual guides, like photos or sketches. This helps notice immediately if the standards drop
  • Define very clearly the tasks workers are responsible for
  • Create or modify operating methods for different tasks
  • Unify response rules
  • Make sure rules and instructions are clearly visible in the workplace
  • Define how to identify and communicate anomalies 

These routine activities need to become natural practices in your workspace, and this can only happen by means of repetition.

When the area is standardised, an outsider to the workstation should test it by coming in and making sure they understand the organisation of the area quickly, and what tasks happen in which operating lines just by looking at the instructions.

If the outsider manages to do this, then the standardisation process will have been successful

Shitsuke  —  Sustain

To make sure the 5S method works, we need to make sure we’re enforcing the fifth and final S to sustain the system we’ve built.

Keeping this system consistently in place happens through repetition and the active involvement of everybody in your organisation.

The more we repeat these processes, the more your standards will keep continuously improving through the P(S)DCA cycle, which stands for

  • Plan ― Define goals and deadlines to implement the 5S system
  • Standardise ― Apply the standards we established in the previous stage
  • Do ―  Train, apply and enforce the standards. This is also the stage to identify anomalies
  • Check ―  Check the standards are effective and evaluate how the 5S system is working
  • Act ―  Analyse and correct any anomalies. We can also find ways to improve our process

When our 5S system is up and running, we need to make sure that it’s effective and that we can find ways to improve it. 

The easiest way to do this is by taking the 5S system through daily cycles of SDCA and making sure that we’re:

  • Checking maintenance activities regarding the state of reference. We can do this through Job Observation
  • Carrying out 5S audits. These audits can work at various levels for different areas
  • Reviewing established standards or creating new ones. We can use Visual Standard to help us do this
  • Solving problems quickly and efficiently using the 5 Whys whenever possible
  • Monitoring the performance of your action plans

5S goes beyond being a method or system. It’s a philosophy that becomes part of the company’s culture in the long run.

By auditing your 5S process regularly, you’ll be able to spot new opportunities for improvement, which in turn will increase productivity, profitability, and safety in your organisation.

Lean manufacturing and 5S

The 5S system is at the heart of lean manufacturing. 

Initiatives such as Kanban or Kaizen can only be successful after the 5S system is implemented effectively.

This shows how hard it would be to create a lean manufacturing culture in your company without a robust 5S method in place.

What is 5S and how it influences Lean Manufacturing

Benefits of the 5S

The 5S method is a starting point for a new way of organisation that focuses on efficiency and optimisation.

As much as this method can help your factory become safer and more productive, it’s important to note that the absence of this method can have quite harmful consequences, such as accidents or constant breakdowns.

Something linked to not implementing the 5S system in your organisation is that you won’t be able to compete with other companies because of the huge structural difference between yours and those that are already implementing this method.

5S ensures that your company can carry out maintenance tasks successfully, making you more competitive than other organisations that aren’t implementing it. This is because, without the 5S method in place, most company resources aim at reducing costs, stalling profitability and motivation.

The 5S process is what helps you stay competitive and consistently find new opportunities for improvement. And just an estimate, with this method, you can improve your efficiency by at least 30% once you get rid of all the wasted time and resources you had before implementing 5S.

This translates into a significant rise in your cost-reduction ability as a factory, which improves productivity, profitability, and motivation.

At the end of the day, nothing good can come out of a poorly organised, dirty workspace. This applies to quality, cost, delivery, and of course, safety.

The 5S is an easy method to implement that will drive your revenue and reduce your waste.

mlean® and the 5S

When implementing a 5S work organization on your company’s shop floor, you are looking for a way to make your process more effective.

And we can help you do just that. Our mlean® Production System (mPS) is a digital toolkit that helps you manage, optimise, and simplify your daily industrial operations from a single dashboard.

Because we implement so many methodologies in our software, you can rest assured we have the perfect tools for your needs, and when it comes to the 5S method, not only we can help you implement it successfully and effortlessly, but also audit it regularly thanks to our 5S Audit tool.

With our mPS, you can optimise your workspace, keep quality standards via multimedia content, create maintenance plans, and monitor workbench audits.

Are you ready to improve the efficiency, productivity, and profitability of your factory?

Give our free demo a try and see what you think!

Request a demo of mlean 5S Digital Tool

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