5S and Lean

When investigating ways to help your business run more efficiently and safely almost everyone has come across the terms 5s and lean, and in many cases they are even thought of as somewhat interchangeable.  The fact is, however, that they have different meanings even if they are used in combination with each other when evaluating the way a business runs.  The 5s standard is primarily used in manufacturing facilities to help improve efficiency and safety in the work environment.  There are several different types of lean standards but when used with 5s it is typically lean manufacturing that people are thinking of.

Taking some time to learn about each of these two types of standards individually will help you see how they can be related and even complimentary.  One nice thing about both of these types of standards is that they are flexible enough to work in a wide range of different types of facilities, yet still have the standards in place to ensure they are effective.

5s Standards

The 5S standards were developed using a list of 5 Japanese words which, when translated to English, start with the letter “S”.  They are, Sorting, Set in Order, Systematic cleaning, standardizing and sustaining.  Each of these five categories gives standards for ways to improve the way an organization does business.  A brief overview of each section will help you to understand exactly what is included.

  • Sorting – Put all tools, parts, and instructions in an easy to find area.  Eliminate anything that you don’t use on a regular basis.
  • Setting in Order – Place everything in the order it is used.  This can be done either based on how often a tool is used or which order it is used for a particular project.
  • Systematic Cleaning – Keeping any workspace clean and free from clutter will help speed up the process and also help items last longer.
  • Standardizing – Any time you have to do something more than once in the same way, setting a standard will help ensure it is done in the most efficient way possible.
  • Sustaining – Reviewing your process on a regular basis to ensure you have all the tools and other items necessary to do a job properly.

Lean Standards

The concept of any lean organization is to try to eliminate any waste throughout your organization.  Waste is defined as anything which is not providing value.  Of course, it is impossible to eliminate all waste from any process, but taking steps to minimize it will help improve the overall profitability of any process.  Some examples of waste can include some of the following things:

  • Wasted Time – When employees are standing around waiting for something to do it costs the company money.
  • Wasted Energy – This could be electricity or the energy from employees.  Increasing efficiency is a great way to improve the bottom line.
  • Wasted Production – Making something which is not valuable

There are several other areas which can contribute to the 8 wastes wastes of lean that can often be reduced or eliminated if you implement the right strategies.  Working with 5s and lean techniques you can often help improve the efficiency of your business quite significantly.

Additional Resources