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5 S

5 S is a philosophy and a way of organizing and managing the workspace and work flow with the intent to improve efficiency by eliminating waste, improving work flow and reducing process unevenness.

5 S is a method for organizing a workplace, especially a shared workplace (like a shop floor or an office space), and keeping it organized. It’s sometimes referred to as a housekeeping methodology; however this characterization can be misleading, as workplace organization goes beyond housekeeping.

The assertion of 5 S is, by assigning everything (that is needed) a location, time is not wasted by looking for things. Additionally, it is quickly obvious when something is missing from its designated location. Advocates of 5 S believe the benefits of this methodology come from deciding what should be kept, where it should be kept, how it should be stored and most importantly how the new order will be maintained.

The 5S’s are:

  • Sorting: Going through all the tools, materials, etc., in the plant and work area and keeping only essential items. Everything else is stored or discarded.
  • Straighten or Set in Order: arrange the tools, equipment and parts in a manner that promotes work flow. For example, tools and equipment should be kept where they will be used. For every thing there should be place and every thing should be in its place.
  • Sweeping or Shining or Cleanliness: the need to keep the workplace clean as well as neat. At the end of each shift, the work area is cleaned up and everything is restored to its place.
  • Standardizing: Standardized work practices or operating in a consistent and standardized fashion.
  • Sustaining the discipline: Maintain the focus on this new way of operating, and do not allow a gradual decline back to the old ways of operating.

An example: At one office, two shifts of employees shared desks. Each employee wanted the desk to be arranged a certain way so, at the beginning of each shift, each employee would spend a few minutes moving things around on the desktop, and from drawer to drawer.  It was decided to implement 5 S in the workplace.  Each desk was arranged (with employee input) the same as all other desks – everything had an assigned place, and it was easy to see when something was missing. It worked. Almost everyone was happy!

This office leadership team carried things a little too far, however. For those employees who did not have to share a desk, they had to 5 S the same way – even to the point of removing pictures of their kids and pets. The team lost sight of the fact that the purpose of 5 S is to eliminate waste and increase workflow. Pictures of families and pets probably increase work flow!

If you have questions about how to introduce 5 S in your workplace, please email me. I’d be happy to help with suggestions!

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