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Benefits of 5S: Is Lean 5S Just Housekeeping?

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I am a trainer and consultant in Lean Manufacturing, Six Sigma, quality management, and business management.

5S Lean Manufacturing

5S Lean Manufacturing

5S Lean

What are the benefits of 5S implemented as part of Lean Manufacturing? Many people mistakenly believe that 5S is just housekeeping, but it is far more than that by a long way.

If you could improve the efficiency of your production area by 10%, would you do it? Simple reorganization of your workplace could achieve this. 5S can help you achieve efficiency improvements in some environments by as much as 30% or even more!

5S is a basic building block of lean manufacturing and provides a solid foundation upon which to build future improvements within your business. The benefits of lean manufacturing can only be realized by implementing the full philosophy of "lean" and various lean tools.

5S is a very inexpensive tool to implement. If your team is coming up with highly expensive proposals for 5S implementation, then they are probably not thinking hard enough about your problems. 5S is not just applicable to the factory floor; the principles of 5S can be applied in any setting or application. You can apply 5S in the office, even to the files on your computer hard drive.

The benefits of 5S are significant when compared to the relatively inexpensive and simple implementation process.

Origins of 5S

The history of 5S within Toyota is not as clear as some tools and could even be fairly confusing, with some attributing it to Toyota and others to the Japanese Plant Maintenance Institute. Whatever the specific origins are, it is clearly part of TPM (Total Productive Maintenance) and has been well absorbed into the Toyota Production System (TPS) and lean manufacturing.

However, 5S clearly reflects the original Ford tool CANDO system:

  • Cleaning up
  • Arranging
  • Neatness
  • Discipline
  • Ongoing Improvement

So I would suggest that as Toyota based much of their original learning on what they bought from Ford on their various visits, 5S may be a derivative of the Ford CANDO system.

Steps of 5S

The following are the Japanese and English names for the main steps of 5S with a brief explanation.

  1. Seiri, or Sort: Remove all unnecessary clutter from the workplace leaving only the necessary items.
  2. Seiton, or Set in order: Arrange all items visually for ease of use and retrieval. Also to allow missing items and shortages to be identified rapidly.
  3. Seiso, or Shine & Check: Clean (and keep clean) the workplace so that problems can be identified when they occur.
  4. Seiketsu, or Standardise: Make the first three steps part of the everyday routine with regular audits and so on.
  5. Shitsuke, or Sustain: Create a culture with a shared set of values that maintains all of the above.
  6. Safety (optional): Ensure the safety of your employees through the implementation of the first five steps.

Benefits of 5S

5S has many benefits as part of lean manufacturing. Improvements in the order or 10-30% in manufacturing efficiency can be gained through implementing 5S. This is certainly true in my experience. Having run many projects in a variety of industries I have seen improvements in these orders in every project, even in those companies that prided themselves on their housekeeping.

Typically the benefits of 5S will cover the following areas:

Efficiency Improvements

Removal of clutter and the highly organized ergonomic workspace that is created through the application of 5S.

Reduced Delays

More visible workspace organization, missing tools and components immediately obvious. Problems are immediately obvious as they will tend to manifest as things being placed where they do not belong, thus driving people to fix them quicker.

Quicker Changeovers

Ergonomic layout and organization of tools and equipment in a clearly labeled and highly visible manner.

Improved Morale and Staff Involvement

Employees' involvement in improving their own workspace for their own benefit, making their work easier and less stressful. Remember, lean is not about turning people into robots.

Increased Sales

Marketing help due to the tidy and organized layout resulting from your implementation of 5S.

Improved Quality Performance

Standardized ways of working and basic maintenance of tools and machines. The correct tools and equipment being in place mean that the right tools are used for the job, plus the ergonomic workplace reduces opportunities for handling damage and the like.

Reduced Energy Costs

Energy savings due to increased efficiencies.

Fewer Accidents

Safety improvements due to the removal of clutter that creates hazards. “A place for everything and everything in its place." An ergonomic layout that prevents stressful and “dangerous” movements such as removing heavy objects from high or low locations.

Inexpensive to Implement

Should you invest in a multimillion-dollar machine to gain an extra 10% improvement in efficiency, or do a methodical reorganization of your workplace that will cost you only the time taken to do it? The gains made by implementing 5S will cost you next to nothing especially when compared to other initiatives.

5S is not just Housekeeping

5S is not just Housekeeping

Implementing 5S to Gain Benefits

5S lean is best implemented under the guidance of an expert, either your experienced internal lean practitioner or a lean trainer or consultant hired to provide in-house 5S training.

5S is a team-based approach that requires the involvement of everyone in the specific area being improved, as well as involving people from outside the area for additional ideas. 5S is very much a hands-on tool; all those involved should expect to be involved in every aspect of the implementation, from clearing out the clutter to cleaning, audits, and continual improvement.

5S is not a once-off activity. The organization should encourage continuous improvement of the workplace and promote a lack of tolerance for things that are not to standard.

5S Builds a Firm Foundation for All Other Improvements

5S does not just tidy your work environment as you would do for the visit of the chairman of the board or some other local dignitary. It is an ongoing and sustained improvement in how you organize your workplace.

But one of the most important parts of 5S is that of standardizing your work (the 4th step of 5S - Seiketsu). Standardization provides you with that firm foundation on which all other improvements can be built. Until you have a repeatable and stable process, you have no idea what is causing your problems and no way to ensure that improvements will either make a difference or even remain effective.

Simple documents to define how work should be performed—Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) or Work Instructions—can be created very simply using standard word processing packages and digital pictures ensuring that everyone knows exactly the best method for conducting an operation.

This will reduce differences between shifts and different operators as well as giving something that can be improved on.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


kuldeep on May 15, 2017:

Great article! i visit your page and i find this article valuable and helpful. Thank you for sharing.