What is 5S and How Should We Implement It?

5S is, in the simplest terms, a method of creating, maintaining and improving a workplace which is clean, orderly, and has methods for detecting waste and errors built in. When used properly, it will help to identify areas where things are being done inefficiently, and come up with solutions for improvement. It will help to take existing processes, and standardize them so they are always done in the most efficient way possible. The 5S process can be applied to manufacturing facilities, office environments, hospitals and even the home.

While some people identify the 5S processes as the ‘housekeeping’ of any working environment, it is really much more than that. While housekeeping could certainly be considered a part of the 5S strategies, it is just the beginning.  When implemented correctly, 5S will allow any work environment to not only run smoothly, but also be in a state of constant improvement. It is this ongoing improvement which really benefits businesses the most over the long term.

How to Best Implement 5S

When implementing 5S strategies into an existing facility it is important to get it right the first time. When things are done incorrectly, it will cause people to question the methodology, and they will be less likely to support any future implementations surrounding the 5S processes. With this in mind, the following tips will help ensure a 5S implementation goes smoothly:

  • Education – Perhaps the most important part of the implementation should be educating everyone on what 5S is, how it works, and why it is so important. Education is key for people at all levels of the organization.
  • 5S & Lean – Companies which are already using Lean concepts to improve their work environment need to emphasize that 5S is a complementary set of processes, and it is not meant to replace the lean strategies.
  • Quick Wins – Upon implementation, have some specific areas of improvement all planned out. Addressing these areas immediately will help people to see the benefits of the 5S strategies, in a tangible way.
  • Create a Sense of Urgency – Make sure everyone understands that this isn’t something that’s going to be rolled out over the course of months or even years. The 5S processes need to go into practice immediately and everyone should be expected to be on board from day one. Of course, after the initial launch, the standards laid out in 5S will continue to be in effect forever.
  • Encourage Participation – Everyone should know that their participation is expected and appreciated. This doesn’t just mean following along with the new procedures, but also making contributions toward further improvement.

These suggestions can help any facility to have an improved acceptance of the 5S strategies, which will lead to a more successful implementation. It is important to keep in mind that while most people are resistant to change, they will embrace it when they can see the value. It is essential to ensure everyone can see the value in their own specific area of the company, or it will be more difficult to get them to support any new 5S implementation efforts.

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