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December 2017
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Utilizing 5S to reap the rewards of an efficient facility

Many manufacturers have implemented tactics toward a “5S” workplace organization and methodology in an effort to improve or supplement lean manufacturing processes. 5S is designed to decrease waste while optimizing productivity through maintaining an orderly workplace and using visual cues to attain more consistent operational results.

5S refers to five steps – sort, set in order, shine, standardize, and sustain (also known as the 5 pillars of a visual workplace). These programs are typically put in place by small teams working together to get materials more accessible to operations, and to foster operations with the smallest amount of wasted time and materials.

Let’s take a closer look at how workplaces can integrate 5S methodology to streamline operations and eliminate waste.

Sort: Eliminate all unnecessary items not needed for any current production operations. This saves the workplace space, time, money, energy, and other resources.

Set in Order: Organize needed tools, parts, and resources so they are easy to use, like labeling items. Setting things in proper order eliminates searching for waste and removes excess inventory.

Shine: Make sure everything, every day is swept and clean. Keeping things clean will turn the workplace into a bright, organized space where employees will enjoy working.

Standardize: To prevent work conditions from backsliding, standardize the “Sort,” “Set in Order,” and “Shine” pillars into one step.

Sustain: Maintain a routine of properly implementing correct procedures. Practicing this habit prevents unneeded items from piling up and creating a disorganized workplace with lower morale.

Beyond boosting employee morale with a more efficient workflow, there are numerous ways your company can benefit from 5S systems:

Optimized Organization: The 5 pillars of workplace organization involves, to an extent, decreasing potential time wasted looking for, determining how to use, and returning items. Under the 5S philosophy, parts and tools are housed in a way that makes them easily accessible and easy to utilize.

Efficiency: The 5S system drives companies to improve efforts aimed to eliminate waste from the manufacturing process and overall enhance a company’s bottom line. This is done through improving products and services, and thus lowering costs.

Bigger Storage Density: Standard 5S implementation results in significant reductions in the square footage of required space for existing operations. The system involves getting rid of unnecessary items from the production facilities  – freeing up space that can be used more effectively.

Heightened Safety: “Waste” to be eliminated is defined broadly and includes everything from carrying excess inventory to waste of unsafe conditions – like a box of supplies left in a heavily-trafficked area potentially causing a worker to trip and get injured.

While manufacturers that continue to strive for improved productivity ensure a solid chance at 5S success, there are a few elements you can integrate to your process for immediate benefit.

Storage solutions play an important part in eliminating waste through inventory management, space reduction, and organization improvement. Under the 5S philosophy, parts or tools should be arranged in a way that makes them both easy to use and easily accessible.

By using storage cabinets with barcoded handles and compartments for small assembly pieces, manufacturers can minimize wasted time due to unorganized or misplaced inventory. Mobile storage cabinets and toolboxes can also allow for streamlined efficiency by essentially relocating the workspace to wherever an employee needs to be on the manufacturing floor.

At its core, the 5S methodology involves systematically improving productivity by establishing and maintaining an orderly workplace. However, this doesn’t just mean identifying and sorting items so that they're easy to find, but also involves achieving a sense of “flow.”

What do we mean by this? Developing and sustaining a productive work environment includes adding flexibility to production lines in order to facilitate faster turnaround times. Storage solutions that can be adjusted based on individual facility requirements result in the most efficient operations. For example, a flexible workbench line integrates with existing conveyor systems to improve employee efficiency and keep the process moving.

As stated by the EPA, “a typical 5S implementation [results] in significant reductions in the square footage of space needed for existing operations.” Why is this necessary? The reason is simple: Removing unnecessary items from the production facility frees up space that can be used more effectively (and ensure a more consistent “flow” of operations).

Modular drawer storage cabinets, which can accommodate everything from small parts to large equipment, allow for the maximum use of cubic space and the highest density storage in the manufacturing facility. By going “floor to ceiling,” companies can take advantage of all available space on the manufacturing floor.

With consolidation and space utilization becoming key trends in the manufacturing industry, companies are increasingly relying on 5S to create highly flexible production environments. While the future of the industry remains to be seen, companies that continually work to improve manufacturing processes and enable more efficient operations best position themselves for success in the long term.