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How to Get Started with 5S

By Joel Bradbury

5S program in action

The lean 5S process is a powerful methodology that can help improve workplace organization, efficiency, and quality. When first getting started with 5S, it is important to foster employee engagement, monitor improvements, and create goals that are measurable. Doing these things will help make your 5S program last.

Employee Engagement

Success, as with any lean program, depends on employee collaboration and engagement. The best ideas for improvements will come from the employees who work in each area. Solutions will be practical and address issues that hurt productivity or make work overly difficult. As workers become more involved in helping to improve the business, they will become more engaged and invested in the workplace.

There are numerous ways you can increase engagement, which includes promoting 5S and showing that 5S works by implementing it in a pilot area.

Promoting 5S: One of the first things you’ll need to do to give 5S the momentum it needs is to promote it throughout the workplace. This can be done several different ways such as:

  • Sharing the success stories of other companies.
  • Having a group or several groups of employees visit a company like Toyota to see the benefits of 5S and other lean programs.
  • Having an expert come in to present 5S to your entire company.

Once you’ve begun promoting 5S, you will need to show your workforce that 5S can be implemented and be beneficial to your company.

5S Test Area Toolboard
Implement a 5S pilot area to promote employee collaboration and engagement.

Showing that 5S works: One of the first things you can do to show how 5S can be applied in your workplace is to have your managers apply 5S to their offices. This will encourage your workers by showing them how 5S can improve efficiency on a small scale.

Once your managers have implemented 5S, you should select a small pilot area. When selecting an area and before implementing 5S:

  • Choose an area that has a history of issues with productivity, organization, or quality.
  • Be sure the area is small enough so that 5S can be implemented in a timely manner.
  • Map out the area’s workflow.
  • Document how long tasks take to complete.
  • Take pictures (before).

Once you’ve implemented 5S in your pilot area, take pictures to show the difference and track the improvements. This will help show both the physical transformation and the improvements in efficiency. Employees will be able to see the benefits 5S can bring to the workplace, helping to ensure that your 5S program will have the support it needs from your employees. Get started with 5S today and download the 5S System Guide by Graphic Products. This helpful guide provides essential training information and helpful tools to help you in your 5S journey.

Continuous Feedback

As you begin implementing 5S in other areas, it is essential to monitor all improvements to ensure that they have the expected benefits. Furthermore, keeping a close eye on each area will make it easier to implement additional improvements and keep everything running efficiently. One way you can do this is through continuous feedback, which can include quality circles and visual management:

Visual management
Constant monitoring of your 5S system increases chances of experiencing benefits.

Quality circles: Ensure employees meet regularly to solve problems, communicate issues, and share success stories. Ideally, each employee should be trained in 5S and problem solving. These meetings can be held on a daily basis or a weekly basis. Generally, when first starting with 5S, daily meetings will be more beneficial. Once 5S has been established, moving to a weekly schedule may be prudent.

Visual management: Help workers keep track of changes, improvements in the workplace, and general operations. Using visual displays to communicate this information ensures that the entire workforce is aware of the day-to-day operations, changes in workflow, as well as how 5S has benefited the company. Overall this will help increase worker confidence in 5S and help workers identify areas that need additional improvement.

Measurable Results

Keep your program on track by ensuring that you have measurable goals. Be sure to provide guidelines for meeting set goals rather than setting deadlines. Doing this will make build trust and encourage workers and managers to participate in your 5S program. Some common goals that can be measured include:

  • Reducing shipping times
  • Reducing material handling
  • Improving the flow of materials throughout the workplace
  • Reducing labor costs per project
  • Improving product quality (reducing the number of defects or rework)

Once you’ve identified goals that can be measured, create 5S checklists to help things keep on track. 5S checklists will also help make the process more manageable. Break each step into subtasks that can be addressed and made part of each worker’s daily tasks.

Visual Communication Tools for 5S

A successful 5S program requires the right visual communication tools. Get off to the right start with DuraLabel industrial label and sign printers by Graphic Products. Create customized communication for each department as well as standardized labels for tools, equipment, and standardized procedures.

Improve workplace organization with floor and aisle marking. PathFinder floor marking and wayfinding by Graphic Products will help workers identify aisles, organize storage areas, and create safe work areas, as well as direct traffic with lanes designated for power vehicles.

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