5S has its origins in the Toyota Production System (TPS), and it is an effective tool to help you create a safe, organized, and efficient work space through standard operational practices. Through 5S, your company will eliminate waste that results from an inefficient and unkempt work area (e.g. wasting time to find a tool).

The approach is a methodical way to organize a workspace for efficiency and effectiveness by identifying and storing the items used, maintaining the area and items, and sustaining the new order.

The 5S approach:

  1. Sort

It all starts with organizing and cleaning your workspace. This means going through everything in each work area, organizing your items, and discarding the unnecessary items. Just remember, don’t hold onto things simply because you might use them, eventually.

Not only does a neat and organized workspace make it easier to find things, it also frees up additional space and helps you spot maintenance issues easier. Which do you think is easier? Spotting a water leak in a clean, organized work space or a cluttered and messy one? By making the workspace easier to maneuver and maintain, 5S sorting also improves workplace safety.

If you’re having trouble sorting your workplace, try following these steps:

  1. Sort through your items and decide which items are necessary and which are unnecessary. Dispose of all unnecessary items.
  2. Classify the necessary items in a manner that makes sense for your operation. Examples include “Tools”, “Materials”, “Cleaning supplies”, and so on.
  3. Determine the ownership of all of the classified items and return them to their respective owners. Finding the owner is important because that person is the most qualified to decide where to place it in the next step. If an item’s owner is unknown, ask around or place it into a pile of owner-less items. Potential owners should look through these items and claim them within a defined period of time (e.g. 30 days). All unclaimed items should be discarded at the end of the timeline.

  1. Straighten, streamline, or set in order

Now that you’ve discarded all of the superfluous items in your shop, it’ll be a lot easier to start to re-organize and streamline your work place. The basic principle is that you should put things in a logical location for your process.

Tips and Tricks

  • Arrange all items in order so they can be easily picked for use
  • Make it easy to find and pick up necessary items, using labels, signage, and “shadowboards”.
  • Follow a first-come-first-serve basis
  • Make work flow smooth and easy
  • Don’t neglect your floors and walls which can also be cleaned and labelled to make it easier to spot parts, tools, and maintenance issues.
  1. Shine

It’d be a waste to sort and organize your workplace just to let it fall apart in a few short months. Shine refers to keeping your workplace clean! But it doesn’t just mean regular cleaning; it’s the belief that at the end of the day, you should return your workspace to the state you found it at the start of the day. That means that every day (and ideally throughout the day), you return tools to the proper location, pick up dropped parts, dispose of junk, and so on.

Regularly shining your workplace will also function as an inspection for maintenance problems and diminishing supplies. If you’re putting your tools and parts away at the end of the day, it’d be hard to miss that you’re running low on materials or that one of the machines is leaking oil. On top of that, it’ll prevent machinery and equipment from deteriorating prematurely.

  1. Standardize

Make these steps easy to accomplish and follow by creating standardized processes. Setting high standards of housekeeping and workplace organization will instill a culture of cleanliness in the company.

Tips and Tricks

  • Create cleaning checklists, job cycle charts, and/or schedule 5S breaks where all employees must shine the area that they’re responsible for.
  • Use visual cues to make organization simple. For example, use shadowboards to organize frequently used tools
  • Clearly label all storage areas, workplaces, equipment, tools, and etcetera.
  • Provide cleaning and maintenance instructions in convenient locations (i.e., on the respective equipment).
  1. Sustain

Sustain is likely the hardest step. It means you must keep your workplace in working order by following the now standardized procedures. It also implies that you must train and retrain your employees on the principles of 5S to instil its importance in them.

Beyond 5S: Your work is never done

5S is entrenched in the Lean manufacturing philosophy, and that means that it’s a part of continuous improvement. As such, you mustn’t become set in your ways. Continually seek to improve the organization and cleanliness of your workplace. Indeed, going through the 5S from start to finish annually or bi-annually may help you remove additional barriers that you didn’t notice the first time. Alternatively, it might reveal that you’ve accumulated more tools than necessary, or your processes have changed rendering your initial changes less efficient than they first were.

For help on implementing 5S or other Lean tools within your company or more information about how these can be implemented within your organization, please reach out at [email protected]