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Lean Technique: 5S Workplace Organisation

5S is usually one of the first steps in a Lean journey. Without it, a company will not have the discipline and structure needed to implement and sustain other Lean tools.

The five ‘S’ steps – sort, set in order, shine, standardise and sustain – aim to create an organised and tidy workplace. A tidy, organised workplace, therefore allows work to be carried out in a clean and safe environment, and can also help remove waste, increase efficiency and form the bedrock of continuous improvement.

The technique looks at all items present within the workplace, and assesses what’s necessary and what isn’t; then organising them within a clean and safe environment – not just improving the image of a workplace, but can importantly fuel valuable improvements for impressive results.

What are the 5 steps of 5S?

Sort is the first step in the 5S system. In a nutshell, this part of the process is to separate the items that are necessary, from those that aren’t needed. This will involve sorting through all the tools and equipment used in the workspace, and eliminating those that aren’t required within your business processes.

After sorting, the step involved the process of setting what’s left in order; finding and sorting a place for everything that’s left. This step sees the organisation of space for the items and materials within the workplace so they are easily accessible when required.

The next phase revolves around ensuring the cleanliness of the workspace. Importantly, this step is not about a quick fix spring clean, but more about looking at cleaning in general as well as ongoing maintenance and inspections of the workspace and items within it.

The standardise phase is all about maintaining the results of the sort, set in order and shine phases. By creating standard practices and procedures, the results of a clean, tidy and efficient workplace are therefore maintained and a consistent performance achieved.

The final step of 5S is to ensure its longevity. Staff now have an organised workplace, and procedures in place to keep it that way. Therefore in order to sustain what has already been achieved in the first 4 S’s, the main aim of the sustain phase is to keep staff motivated to ensure the ongoing success of the 5S programme.

5S & Visual Management

The underlying key to the success of a 5S programme is the use of effective visual management tools. Aligning a clean, organised working environment, with the right procedures and motivated staff, can be done via the use of the correct visual management tools.

Items such as daily 5S audit boards and cleaning stations become embedded into the culture of the workplace and an integral feature for staff throughout the workplace to ensure the 5S programme continues to have an impact of efficient business operations.

Why use 5S?

There are a number of benefits that implementing the 5S Lean technique can bring to your business. By looking at the organisation of the workplace, implementing 5S:
– Creates an environment which facilitates sustainable orderliness and cleanliness
– Identifies abnormalities as everything has an easily visible location
– Increased efficiency
– Opportunity to create a cleaner and safer environment
– Opportunity to standardise the work area