Your Mother Was Right: How 5S Methodology Improves Efficiency And Safety

Your mother may have been right in her frequent admonishments to clean your room. For those of you who decided to express your independence in ignoring her, there’s some significant irony in that your company now seeks to implement a cyclical methodology to improve efficiency, productivity, safety and other business benefits through sorting, organization, cleaning and other related activities.

From the East

The term “5S” refers to the original Japanese terms used to describe the system. Similar English words also beginning with the letter S and reflecting the same meaning of the original terms have been added to information on the steps or replaced the Japanese terms entirely. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency advocates the 5S technique in homes, government agencies and businesses as part of its “lean” emphasis. Adoption of lean manufacturing in business, for instance, can have significant positive effects upon the environment. The 5S steps consist of the following:

· SeirI or Sort

  • This usual first step consists of eliminating any unnecessary items in the active area of the home or workplace. Thus, elimination need not always imply discarding items. Rather, they may need to be stored away in an accessible area.

· Seiton or Set in Order

  • Following sorting of tools or materials and determining which are necessary to remain in the area, these items are then organized in an accessible area. The organization of tools, machinery or even office desk items is conducted according to the frequency, which a worker is required to access the item and the order in which a series of tools is used in the performance of the work activity.

· Seiso or Shine

  • All tools, items or machinery must be clean and in good working order. Efficiency isn’t enhanced by work stoppages required to repair machinery or use machinery that provides defective results.
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· Seiketsu or Standardize

  • The 5S system is a cyclical one as opposed to a linear step-by-step activity undertaken on a given schedule.This means a standardized routine must be established for the first three steps: sorting, setting and shining.

· Shitsuke or Sustain

  • Sustain refers to developing a culture in the home, government or business environment whereby the 5S steps are practiced daily.

The Tangible Effects of 5S System Practice

The EPA provides a list of comprehensive benefits and examples to businesses that adopt and practice lean manufacturing and the 5S system. Briefly, some of the benefits are noted below:

· Decreased Energy Use Required for Lighting

Cleaning machinery, painting machines bright colors (perhaps color-coded by function) and regularly washing the windows is reported as having a significant effect on the energy required to light the working environment.

· Increased Safety for Workers

A clean work environment with adequate lighting, signs, markings and colors to guide the manufacturing process reduces injury from slips on once-unseen liquids. Key safety equipment like hardhats, eye protection and gloves are made easily accessible. Benefits include the reduction of dangerous fumes and a reduced chance for harm among employees and business owners.

· Decreased Space Required for Production

Systematic, organized and accessible storage of tools and items can reduce workspace significantly. Smaller areas for manufacture require less energy to light, heat and cool.

Long-Term Benefits of 5S

As the EPA’s benefits clearly demonstrate, the 5S system can help us all to be environmentally responsible citizens. The EPA site also provides references and suggestions for implementing these practices into your personal home environment. Why would you want to bring a work-related strategy home with you? The 5S system can help businesses and homeowners alike implement practices to enhance environmental friendliness as well as productivity, organization and overall satisfaction with the completion of tasks.

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