5S and the Visual Workplace

5S and the Visual Workplace

The philosophy of continuous improvement is more than a trend in today’s business environment, and the solution is the visual workplace – for improving quality, organization, efficiency, housekeeping and safety.

The 5S methodology, as described in Hiroyuki Hirano’s 5 Pillars of the Visual Workplace, is the foundation for making companywide improvements in both the production facility and the front office, so that the Just-In-Time production strategy (inventory management) can be implemented.

The 5S’s are based on the Japanese words seiri, seiton, seiso, seiketsu and shitsuke, and, when transliterated, mean organization (sorting), orderliness (setting in order), cleanliness (shining and sweeping), standardizing (standardized cleanup) and discipline (sustaining the process). These 5S’s are the basic formula for achieving “product diversification with zero changeovers, higher quality with zero defects, lower costs with zero waste, reliable deliveries with zero breakdowns and improved safety with zero injuries.”

A sixth “S”, Safety, is sometimes added depending on the workplace, and some argue that explicitly including this sixth “S” ensures that workplace safety is given primary consideration. But it is reasonable to assume that a properly planned and executed 5S program will inherently improve workplace safety.

  • Sorting
    The main component of the first “S” or sorting phase is ridding a bloated production facility of any unwanted, un-needed or unused tools or materials. This happens by implementing the “red tag” strategy – applying a red tag to anything considered unnecessary in a production cycle, placing in a holding area to see if it was needed, and then ultimately discarding anything not needed; “When in doubt, throw it out.”
  • Setting in Order
    A lot like a home garage peg-board, or a surgeon’s tray of instruments, the second “S” gives each tool a permanent place to reside so that whether the employee is new or temporary, illiterate or bilingual or just happens to need something right away, they know exactly where to find it and put it when finished. Driving even deeper into this strategy, when applicable, tools are combined when possible to perform various functions, and placement in bins, in drawers, or on shelves accounts for chronological use and proximity to the user.
  • Shining
    When the work area is clean and maintained, maintenance and repairs can happen instantaneously, because they come to a worker’s attention immediately. In a dirty environment, machines that could be easily fixed may break down because an oil drip was not noticed until it was too late.
  • Standardized Cleanup
    Once everything is in its place and the work environment is clean, don’t stop there. Determine daily (even shift) targets, assignments, methods, tools – then keep going. There is no limit to how often, how long, what procedure or what tools to use, until it is determined that once your daily cleaning duties are accomplished, your time can be better spent elsewhere.
  • Sustain the Discipline
    Simply put, “Make a habit of properly maintaining the correct procedures.” Without discipline, excess materials are purchased because they’re not in the proper place, workers waste time searching for misplaced tools, the facility will get dirty again causing machines to break down, and accidents will become more prevalent.

With proper planning and execution of the 5S’s, any plant or production facility can implement the 5S’s for a visual workplace. It requires buy-in from the CEO all the way to the newest employee, but over time, will benefit the organization as a whole, keeping workers safe, keeping things organized and running properly and increasing the bottom line.

IBT can provide tools like 5S Shadow Boards, tapes, tags and more. Contact IBT to learn more about how Accuform products can be implemented in your facility.


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