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Quick Start Guide To 5S Manufacturing

What is 5S-inspired manufacturing? 5S is a set of principles for organizing and maintaining a clean, efficient, and safe work environment. The 5S principles are: Sort, Simplify, Sweep, Standardize, and Sustain. By implementing these principles, companies can improve productivity, reduce waste, and increase employee morale. Learn how we implement some of these principles at Wasco and how you can implement them in your professional (and even personal) workspaces.

The first principle, Sort, involves eliminating unnecessary items from the workplace. This can include anything from excess inventory to clutter on the factory floor. By removing unnecessary items, employees have more space to work and can focus on the tasks at hand. Unless you're a hoarder, it feels good to work in a clean space. Identify items that are not needed and are taking up valuable space. Implementation: Classify items by frequency of use. Ask: What items/software/systems are truly necessary for me to do my best work? Do I have unused subscriptions that are taking up space in my budget?

The second principle, Simplify, involves making the workplace as simple and easy to understand as possible. This can be achieved by clearly labeling items, creating visual aids, and simplifying processes. The Simplify step helps team members better understand their environment and the tasks they are expected to perform, which can lead to increased efficiency and productivity. Implementation: Ask: Are items stored orderly so that they can be picked up efficiently? Is everything at the right height? Are items labeled well enough so that a new team member could understand what they are?

The third principle, Sweep, focuses on keeping the workplace clean and free of debris. Don't just clean the dirtiness. Tackle the source of the dirt. If the manufacturing floor is getting dusty, don't just clean the dirt. Seal the cracks under the door to stop the source of the dirt. Implementation: Ask: What's the source of dirtiness? Do I have a 5-minute daily cleaning routine? Is there proper lighting to see the dirt? For a team: consider using a public sheet that team members can initial when areas are cleaned or reviewed. The fourth principle, Standardize, involves creating a set of procedures and processes that are followed by all team members. This can include everything from how materials are stored to how equipment is maintained. By standardizing processes, your team will clearly understand their roles and responsibilities. Implementation: Do we have standardized work instructions so that team members know what they're responsible for? Does everyone know what clean looks like? Should there be example photos of areas in a clean state?

Wasco 3S Symbol
Wasco's 3S Symbol

The final principle, Sustain, focuses on maintaining the improvements made by the previous four principles. This involves continually reviewing and refining processes, as well as training employees on the 5S principles. By sustaining these improvements, companies can ensure that their operations remain efficient (and safe) over time. Implementation: Ask: Did my team buy into the 3S continuous improvement principles? If not, have they had enough time to establish these organizational habits? Do I lead by example? Implementing 5S principles is not a one-time event, it's a continuous process. It requires commitment, leadership, and active participation from all employees. At Wasco, we've decided to focus on 3 of the 5 principles: Sort, Sweep, and Standardize.

Practical steps we take to encourage 3S implementation:

  • 3S education posters in all buildings

  • Periodic review of 3S principles in managerial and company-wide meetings

  • Installation of "3S shelves" in all buildings to gather and sort random items which allows areas to be thoroughly cleaned

  • 3S In Action company-wide competition for team members to brag about their sorting, sweeping, and standardizing to be entered in a drawing

  • Regular cleaning by the team and a third-party

  • Labeling everything: tools, bins, cabinets, and folders (everything that's necessary has a home)

  • Standardizing and clarifying work instructions through regular reviews

For further reading and to give credit where it's due: www.leansixsigmadefinition.com

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