How to Utilize 5S as a tool in Lean Manufacturing

The 5S approach to workplace organization is a tool that operates as a key building block for Lean Manufacturing. 5S stands for Sort, Set in order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain. Catalyst Connection’s Plan-Do-Check-Act approach to Lean uses 5S as a key foundation for operational excellence. Todd Tommaney, Catalyst’s operational excellence consultant, recently spoke on this approach at an Industry Week event focused on Manufacturing and Technology.

Plan and Do

Tommaney recommends sending a team to Gemba or “the actual location” where 5S is to be implemented. The initial 5S location should be considered an organizations “model cell” as all other 5S events will be benchmarked according to this initial effort. The 5S team should include Process Owners – needed for their expertise and buy-in; Maintenance Personal – who will be able to provide the quick fixes; Outside Employees – who provide a fresh perspective; Department Managers – if the decision makers are present, the decisions can be made more efficiently; and finally Facilitators – who keep the effort moving along within the parameters of 5S.

As this team gathers information, they will be able to start the 5S process by working through the first three steps. They will Sort and remove unnecessary items, and then create a Red Tag holding area for items in need of management review. Once it has been determined which items will be placed back into the work cell they will then be Set in Order. Once a new organizational approach is established, a daily Shine (cleaning) practice should be used to keep an area free from clutter and potential safety pitfalls. Shine is the gateway to equipment and tooling inspection that helps promote Total Productive Maintenance (TPM).

Check and Act

As rules are established and new procedures put in place, it’s important to set a new standard that is easy to understand and visualize. Standardize, the next S, makes lean a part of daily practice that can easily be checked and replicated. Tommaney stresses that this encourages buy-in, as each individual has control and management of their own area. As Tommaney also mentions “clarity in communication” is critical in supporting employee engagement.

With a strong foundation of Sort, Set in order, Shine, and Standardize in place, a workplace can look to the final S – Sustain. By putting into action a plan of standardized daily practice, a workplace will develop new habits. These new habits, when properly audited, supported, and recognized, lead to maintaining a workplace that identifies and eliminates non-value-added activities through continuous improvement. In other words, it leads to a workplace that is Lean.

Tommaney and the entire team of experts at Catalyst Connection partner up with companies who are looking to become Lean. With many tools for success at their disposal, including help in establishing a practical approach to workplace organization via 5S, Catalyst’s consulting team can help companies continuously improve with their Plan-Do-Check-Act approach towards operational excellence.