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What Is 5S?

By Matt Wastradowski

color-coded labels as part of a 5S organization system

What Is the 5S System?

The 5S system is a lean manufacturing tool that improves workplace efficiency and eliminates waste. There are five steps in the system, each starting with the letter S:

  • Sort
  • Set In Order
  • Shine
  • Standardize
  • Sustain

By providing a systematic framework for organization and cleanliness, 5S helps facilities avoid lost productivity from delayed work or unplanned downtime.

What Does Each S Mean?

The steps of 5S form a cycle, with each step feeding into the next5S was created in Japan, so English translations for each of the five steps may vary. The basic ideas and the connections between them are always easy to understand, though.

Sort (seiri, or tidiness) involves removing unnecessary tools and materials from a workspace. Only what is needed at a given station should be kept there; this frees up space for the rest of the process.

Set In Order (seiton, or orderliness) is carefully organizing the materials and tools that remain after the Sort step: “a place for everything, and everything in its place.” Organized work spaces can be used more efficiently and effectively.

Shine (seiso, or cleanliness) calls for routine cleaning of the work area, tools, and equipment. A clean work area prevents clutter or dirt from hiding potential problems, and improves the working life of equipment.

Standardize (seiketsu, or standardization) means documenting what’s being done so those improvements can be shared across the facility and into the future. This makes the new approach part of normal business.

Sustain (shitsuke, or discipline) requires ongoing effort to maintain 5S in the facility. Keep track of progress with evaluations, communication, and ongoing training. Assign continuing responsibility. This way, the benefits of 5S aren’t lost over time.

5S and Lean Manufacturing Principles

Lean manufacturing is a system that aims to eliminate waste, improve quality, and increase profits by creating value based on customer needs. Businesses gain the greatest benefit from 5S when it is used with other lean tools:

  • Total Productive Maintenance – Discover how you can improve production time, eliminate errors, and reduce downtime through preventive maintenance and autonomous maintenance.
  • Kaizen – Learn how small changes lead to major improvements in quality, safety, and profit.
  • Kanban – Streamline your supply chain, reduce work-in-progress, and eliminate errors with this powerful lean tool.

Why Should I Adopt the 5S System?

Starting 5S is different for every facility, depending on the needs, processes, and workplace culture. But, no matter how it’s done, you can enjoy many benefits from 5S:

  • Improved profits: Reduce costs, streamline labor costs, and improve quality.
  • More efficient workforce: Make work easier with standard procedures. What needs to happen, happens.
  • Safer workplace: Improve safety by keeping your workplace clean and organized.
  • Fewer defects: Reduce errors and defects by making it easier to identify and solve problems.
  • Better communication: Ensure your workforce has the information it needs to operate efficiently by creating a visual 5S factory.

What Types of Businesses Benefit from a 5S Program?

numbered, color-coded bins as part of the Set In Order step of 5S.5S provides benefits to nearly every industry, including schools and hospitals.

  • Schools: The University of Georgia started a lean program in 2009. Using 5S, they reduced the travel distance for processing supplies by 83%, saving $7,000 to $10,000 in labor each year. 
    (Source: http://www.busfin.uga.edu/)
  • Hospitals: A recent study shows how 5S improved safety, increased efficiency, and reduced costs. The hospital reduced set up time by 37%, and reduced the number of tools needed for some procedures by 70%. On the financial side, the hospital realized savings of about 2.8 million dollars a year.
    (Source: Journal for Healthcare Quality. September/October 2015. Volume 37, Issue 5)
  • Manufacturers: Boeing is using 5S-inspired tools to increase its annual output.

When 5S is practiced each day, it will improve efficiency and quality. These, in turn, lead to lower costs and increased profits.

What Will 5S Cost?

While 5S can be done on any budget, the 5S system requires some resources to become an effective tool. At minimum, there will be some costs related to:

  • Training employees
  • Cleaning and organizing the workplace
  • Getting tools and supplies to support 5S (labeling, floor marking, shelving, and so on)

5S Resources

The 5S System requires proper labeling and signage to help workers find tools and supplies, ensure standards are followed, and communicate changes in workflow and procedures. DuraLabel industrial label and sign printers by Graphic Products, as well as high-performance DuraLabel printer supplies, can help develop custom signs and labels suited your workplace.

Kickstart your 5S program, increase efficiency, and improve profits with the 5S System Guide by Graphic Products. The free guide helps minimize downtime and defects by explaining the basics of 5S, showing how the system works, and offering tips for how to apply 5S to your workplace.

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