The traditional 5 “S’s” of 5s are Sort, Straighten, Shine, Standardize and Sustain. Facilities around the world have been following the 5S standards for years with incredible successes. Some companies today, however, want to add in another S to try to further improve on this already very popular set of standards. The sixth S is for safety which most people would agree is always of utmost importance in any type of facility today.
Those who are used to, and like, the traditional model of 5s standards argue that safety is the result of a properly instituted 5s facility so there is no need to change what is already working. Those who want to add it in believe it is important enough to get its own category. While there is no official right or wrong answer there are important points to be made on both sides of the discussion.
5S has Enough S’s As it Is
When a facility follows the 5s strategies properly they will be doing things like organizing tools, marking areas clearly, improving on processes and eliminating waste. While the intent of these things is typically focused on improving efficiency and providing additional value to customers, the fact is they also help to eliminate risks and improve the overall safety of any facility.
If, for example, you have an imitative within your 5s strategy to clearly mark where vehicles will be traveling so that you can avoid wasted time by having them slow down while watching for people walking in the area. While this is covered technically under the sort and standardize sections of the 5s process, it will clearly help with the safety as well. There are dozens of examples of this under each section of the 5s concepts which show that safety is ingrained into every aspect of the 5s process. This is why so many people believe that 5s is sufficient and there is no reason to expand it to 6s by adding in the safety category.
Safety is Always Job #1 – It Deserves its Own Category
While nobody would argue that a properly planned 5s strategy will also improve the safety of a facility, that is not enough. Safety is of such critical importance that it is unwise to simply rely on it being addressed within the other 5 sections. By adding the sixth s to the program many people believe that it will help to identify additional areas where safety improvements can be made.
Keeping safety embedded within the other categories can cause some people to overlook opportunities for improvement simply because it does not eliminate waste in the ways typically thought of in the 5s ideals. If a facility is not operating in the safest possible manor it should be a major priority for everyone involved. Limiting any processes to just the 5s standards is a mistake which could very well add in additional risks which could otherwise be avoided by simply adopting the new 6s standard which is being pushed by so many people today.