Many consultants will advise clients that 5S is a good place to start when starting your Lean journey. This is for good reason. 5S is a process and method for creating and maintaining an organized, clean, and high performance workplace. It enables anyone to distinguish between normal and abnormal conditions at a glance. 5S can be the foundation for continuous improvement, zero defects, cost reductions and a more productive work space. The 5S methodology is a systematic way to improve the workplace, processes and products through employee involvement.
Embarking on your Lean journey with implementing 5S is beneficial for several reasons:
1. Organized and safe work place. With some simple training, supplies, time and a little bit of elbow grease, you can carve out a very well organized area in your workplace. People are less likely to get injured in an organized environment.
2. Provides structure and discipline. Successful implementation of 5S requires that processes be defined and process ownership assigned. This begins to create basic process team structures with assigned responsibility and accountability for process conditions and performance.
3. Creates visibility. It allows you to see problems more easily. If you have a good 5S condition, problems can be seen easily. When process conditions start to become standardized, leading to the surfacing of abnormal conditions, which in turn can lead to problem solving, learning, and developing corrective and preventive actions.
4. Improves morale. People enjoy working in an organized environment. Yes, there are those out there who really don’t mind working in a dirty, filthy place, but studies have shown that morale is higher in companies with a higher level of 5S.
5. Continuous improvement. 5S begins to stimulate employee contributions and ideas for improvement. It is important for firms that begin their improvement journey with 5S to nurture the employee contributions which can flow out from 5S activity.
5S is a prerequisite for most other Lean tools. Well-implemented, 5S can open up entry points into flow and pull, equipment reliability, standardized work, and value analysis. We know that Standard Work is a baseline for all improvements, but if the workplace is unorganized and the necessary items needed to do the job are not easy to locate, how can Standard Work be followed? Without Standard Work, you really don’t have a chance to improve the process and 5S is a critical prerequisite.
So by starting with something as simple as sorting through your items, setting them in a designated space, shining them up, you can achieve higher levels of Safety, Quality, Problem Solving and Morale. Not to mention, you won’t really be able to proceed further in legitimately implementing Lean practices. Don’t you think that it’s worth it to rank 5S as a high priority for your workplace? Just make sure you are aware of the commitment level you need to Standardize the practice and Sustain it, otherwise all you are doing is “cleaning up” once in a while.