Implementing the 5S system in your warehouse will create a leaner, more efficient workflow. But the rewards ripple out much farther than that. 5S may help cut down on the time it takes to pack and ship orders means customers receive them faster and labor costs decrease, increasing company profit while potentially lowering the customer cost. Floor marking can be a critical component of your 5S warehouse system and may increase its organization and efficiency.
Here's a look at the definition of the 5S system—and how each 'S' of the five can help your warehouse.
5S System: Sort
- Clear all paths. Forklift need servicing? New inventory in the way? Designate an area with floor marking tape so transitioning items don't impede traffic flow.
- Are all packing supplies nearby, or are workers wasting time running around? Prioritize tool inclusion based onfrequency of use.
- One approach is to tag items within a workspace with numbers representing their importance and frequency of use. Label mission-critical tools with a “1”, secondary but necessary items “2”, etc. Then, reorder the workspace, giving priority by numeric value.
- Create separate packing stations. Keeping too many supply types in one large area creates a slowdown. If frequent orders require specialty packing supplies (such as fragile or refrigerated products), create a separate workstation. This way, each packing workstation has appropriate supplies close at hand.
5S System: Set in Order
- An organized warehouse clearly identifies aisles, floors, shelves, and items.
- A library is a great example of an effective identification system. Materials are sorted into areas for categories like fiction or nonfiction, then broken down into subcategories like travel or medicine, and materials are in alphabetical or numerical order. All areas have signs and all materials are labeled. There is no question where any item can be found in a library, despite the ever-changing stock.
- Color-code inventory that is fragile, heavy, or irregular, so employees can immediately identify that special handling is needed.
- When inventory locations frequently change, label the shelves with Dry Erase, Magnetic, or Repositionable tapes.
- Without clear designations of aisles, employees can get sloppy and place inventory haphazardly so that it overhangs into the aisle and creates a safety hazard. Floor marking tape can help keep inventory contained within shelving areas.
- Implement a barcoding system not only for stock placement but for aisles, placing barcodes on shelf tags and floor marking tape. Barcoding is also helpful for tracking tools or other resources. If you have a tool crib attendant, he or she can inventory and "check out" tools to people, just like a librarian checks out materials. Set due times or dates if workers aren't returning tools, or tool stocks are low.
5S System: Shine
- Is your packing area frequently low on supplies, with everything scattered about? Assign someone (or several people if your operation spans several shifts) to be in charge of the area. Creating ownership creates pride, and the area should show immediate improvement.
- Schedule periodic deep cleanings. An after-Christmas slow period would be a great time to remove/replace old signs and labels, review your floor marking system, and clear the dust from old inventory.
5S System: Standardize
- Encourage employees to keep focused and specialized. Take the time to analyze employees' workflow and see how it can be streamlined.
- Add a suggestion box so employees can anonymously recommend improvements or critique the current system. Read submissions at meetings and ask for input. The people who know areas the best are the employees who spend all day there, and they probably have ideas for how to improve the system.
- On a whiteboard, list one-off unassigned tasks and encourage people to assign themselves to tasks when time permits. Acknowledge super-performers personally or in a meeting. This is a great way to attend to occasional tasks that lack ownership, while boosting morale and increasing participation in the 5S program.
5S System: Sustain
- Interview employees to find out what training may be lacking or which resources they initially struggled to find. Ask what slows them down each day.
- Make auditing a constant process. Keep your eyes open for areas of inefficiency. Do workers cluster around a certain area, waiting for tools to become available? Is the loading dock chaotic at all times? Find these inefficiencies, and develop solutions to remedy them.
5S System: Safety
Some systems add a sixth S to the 5S system: safety. If you are implementing 5S solely for its impact on efficiency, don't dismiss safety as “not your job.” Injured workers harm your efficiency, so a Lean workplace needs to be a safe workplace, too. Learn more about 6S with Graphic Products' 6S System Guide. The free guide breaks down relevant standards, shows how to integrate it into the 5S steps, and offers tips for improving safety in your workplace.
How do you improve warehouse safety with a 5S program?
- Mark aisles and traffic lanes with floor marking tape to keep pedestrians away from forklifts and other hazards. Graphic Products' free 5S standard color code guide shows a warehouse with 5S colors, patterns, and typical visual communication.
- Use reflective tape on posts, loading docks, or company vehicles to improve visibility.
- Keep workers upright in slippery conditions tread tape. Available in 5S colors, it'll help with warehouse organization and safety.
- Glow tape can keep workers safe and move them around the warehouse if the power goes out.
- Use tread-glow tape if your warehouse has potentially slippery areas with poor lighting.