The 5S Lean system is an organisation-wide strategy that can transform your workplace. It’s a method of organising and maintaining workspaces to improve productivity, efficiency and safety.
The 5S Lean system was originally developed by Toyota in the 1950s to help them deal with the rapid growth experienced during World War II. Today, many companies are adopting this workplace management technique as a way of reducing waste and increasing profits – it has been proven time and time again! In this article, we’ll take you through what the 5S principles are, how they can be used across an entire organisation, some real life examples of how 5S has helped other businesses achieve success, and finally what steps you should take to implement these into your own business or workplace.
The 5S Lean system was developed by Toyota in the 1950s and is still being used today to help companies improve their business operations, efficiency and safety. This method of organising workplaces has been shown time and time again to reduce waste and increase productivity.
Many businesses are now adopting this approach as a way of reducing costs or increasing profits – and it makes sense why! 5S Lean is a way of organising your place of work to achieve the best results.
We cover more about this topic in our Online Lean Academy. A range of courses to help your professional career.
The 5S Lean remains one of the core foundational tools and perhaps one of the most popular tools in the lean toolbox.
The reason why is that the 5S Lean Principles are:
- easy to teach
- the concepts are easily grasped,
- it’s visual and
- the approach tends to have a cultural impact as well.
While the 5S tool looks fairly easy to implement it also has the direct benefit of impacting both quality and productivity as well. Therefore, it’s a very natural place to begin early in a Lean journey.
However, it’s important to understand the 5S methodology takes time and it’s a journey that teams will need to go on to achieve the full benefits and the results.
What are the 5S?
- Sort – to separate the necessary from the unnecessary
- Set – designate a place for all necessary items
- Shine – Keep the workplace clean and tidy to surface problems
- Standardise – manage and maintain performance
- Sustain – implement standards for optimal conditions
- (Safety – of our people – not all companies refer to 6S)
Developing a 5S System
Before implementing any processes around 5S Lean you must do a complete clean up of your workspace. Sort through items that aren’t needed anymore and get rid of them by donating, recycling or throwing them away. This will help to make the rest of 5S Lean a lot easier
Next, you should organise any remaining items that are needed by creating checklists and routines for each task; this step can be done with all employees if they work in one area as well as an individual checklist per employee depending on what is needed. An example would be somebody who works at the reception – their routine could include making sure pens have ink every day before starting work, checking the printer is working and having spare paper etc… Every person’s routine may vary but it doesn’t take long to establish these once everyone understands how vital they are to 5S Lean
Once your workplace has been organised through Sort (step one) and Set In Order (step two) it’s time to Shine. This step is especially vital if you have a larger workplace as keeping the area clean and tidy on an ongoing basis can be difficult without regular checks.
When conducting the shine step you are looking for any hazards which could cause injury or damage to your equipment. Make sure these are kept off-limits and you should also have regular cleaning routines in place, this can be done by setting up a schedule for each task such as deleting shared folders, or mopping the floor every other day for example.
In order to ensure consistency across all areas of 5S Lean it’s important that standards are set and followed for everyone involved; whether they work on their own or in teams alongside others when carrying out tasks. This includes everything from how items need sorting through to what colour labels go where etc… All employees must know exactly what is expected of them so there’s no room for error within the process.
The last stage of creating a sustainable culture within your workplace is to sustain. By this point, all employees will understand their role in 5S Lean as well as why they need to carry out these tasks on a regular basis; everyone must remain committed to continuous improvement
For the last part of 5S Lean – Standardise, this will help keep everyone working in your business or organisation consistent with how they work every day. You should make sure that all employees know each other’s routines so there isn’t any confusion when performing different tasks; for example, the receptionist knows what printer needs checking daily but someone filling out paperwork doesn’t need to check another person’s printer at all during their shift etc… These are just some examples of how standardising processes within 5S Lean can benefit your/organisation
5S Lean Methodology
The principles behind the 5S Lean methodology create workspaces which are designed to create value. It is not simply about having a “spring clean” but how do we design our space for optimal productivity, focus and creativity.
5s of Lean: Making it work for you!
The real objective of a 5S program must be to reduce waste, reduce variation and to improve productivity. Companies lose millions of dollars of productivity through people simply looking for files on their SharePoint or hunting for an email in the monstrosity that workplace email culture has become.
But for employees to be productive and create value, they need space to focus and do the job at hand. In the manufacturing environment, this might mean having the exact tools required within arm’s length. In a creative environment, it might be space away from email notifications to concentrate for an extended period. In our virtual home offices today, it might be a space that is free from visual distraction and unnecessary noises.
Our workspace organisation and our workspace design need to create the right well-organised environment where everyone knows where everything is and everything that is needed to help us create value has a designated space.
Along with “morning meetings”, 5S is part of the daily routines that can unleash change within organisations. The daily routine of sustaining a 5s work environment requires conscious daily focus and long term discipline at an individual and team level.
To give just one example of this, we had been working with one team for around 2 months and slowly we had been gaining traction to improve productivity – but it was slower than we expected. After discussing workplace organisation, the team (not us) decided they wanted to gut the office environment, apply a new layer of paint and set up the workspace from scratch.
The team got permission, came in on the weekend and gutted the place. On the following Monday, the workspace was spotless with people assigned each day to keep it that way and raise any issues found. But over the following two weeks, actions we had assigned were also completed, accountability suddenly improved and the “change mindset” was unleashed. (You can join our Unleashing Change” Webinar here).
5S is a powerful way to create cultural change but first, everyone must understand the 5S Lean methodology and the key principles. (Take one of our Lean Courses to expand your knowledge of 5S and other lean tools.)
5s Lean Training
The Lean Academy is a hub of training courses that are designed to give you the skills and knowledge needed to implement Lean 5S in your workspace.
Our 5S Lean course starts with an introduction to the basics of 5 S, Lean and Kanban. It follows with specific case studies relating to schools, hospitals and restaurants. The last section contains more in-depth knowledge on implementation, setting up and scheduling for 5S Lean.
We are working hard to provide our members with the tools they need in order to make their workplaces as efficient, safe and productive as possible. To register go to academy.leanscape.io or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Classic 5S:
Along with the more western translations of the 5S, the classic 5S from Toyota are, Seiri, Seiton, Seisa, Seiketsu, Shitsuke.
As is often the case, when these terms are translated, they lose some of the wider significance with the Japanese culture. So always keep a broad understanding of these terms. Each term is always focused on value creation, identify wastes and seeing new opportunities for improvement.
Marie Kondo: The Life-Changing Magic if Tidying Up
Marie Kondo became famous in Japan in the 2010s by becoming a home consultant helping people organise their homes to deliver “joy”. While sustainment may be more down to the individual who she helps, she applies the first 3S brilliantly in her book: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Worth a read, but be careful if you give it to your partner!