The Lean management philosophy is a flexible and adaptable approach to creating a smooth, efficient production system that uses a number of techniques and methodologies to accomplish the goal of higher productivity with less waste. And while no two Lean implementations are exactly the same, most of them have one element in common. The 5S system.
The 5S approach to production is a key component of the Toyota Production System (TPS), developed in the 1970’s and 80’s, which helped propel Japan to the forefront of the world automotive market. As the name implies, it is comprised of 5 steps or elements, each one critical in its own way to the success of a lean system:
- Sort: This step focuses on the items and personnel which are located at any given workstation during the production process. The key is to:
◦ Make sure that all supplies, material, components, equipment and workers required for the current step in the production process are in place before the work begins. This eliminates time wasted waiting for things to arrive.
◦ Insure that anything that does not contribute to the current phase of the production process is eliminated. This reduces clutter and allows for more efficient placement of the items that should be there.
- Set or Straighten: This step focuses on the position of the supplies, materials, equipment, and tools used in the current phase of the production process. The goal is to minimize the amount of time spent accessing the elements during the process:
- ◦ Things that are used more frequently should be closer to the workers, while less frequently accessed supplies, tools and equipment should be further away.
◦ Tools should be stored in easy to reach racks or fitted boxes that allow workers to locate and access them quickly and accurately.
◦ Supplies should be positioned for easy access but in such a way as to not interfere with movement or work.
- Shine: This step focuses on the need for a clean, neat and orderly work environment. Dirt and clutter have a number of negative and time wasting effects:
◦ Dirt and debris can be harmful to machinery and can contribute to accidents.
◦ A cluttered workstation can be distracting, which reduces worker efficiency.
- Standardize: This step focuses on the need for standard operating procedures across the board. This allows every portion of the organization to benefit from the improvements in every other and makes cross training easier and more effective.
- Sustain: This step focuses on the need to make your operation sustainable, adaptable, and self improving. This step may require the most commitment of all, as it is easy to sit back and settle in with the new status quo.