When looking to help a facility run more efficiently you will find that there are many ideas and methodologies out there that are able to help. Two of the most popular (and most effective, when done properly) are 5S and Kaizen. Both of these concepts are quite similar, but there are important distinctions that one should be aware of before implementing either of them. It is important to note that the differences are such that it is possible to implement both to gain additional benefits.
What is Kaizen
Let’s start with simple definitions. Kaizen is a Japanese philosophy for continuous improvement of workplace practices and personal activities. The important point for this subject is that Kaizen is focused on improving practices within the facility.
Kaizen is a great option for many facilities, especially those that don’t have set standards for how each process should be handled. For example, if your facility runs three shifts for each job and each shift does things differently, Kaizen is an excellent option.
What is 5S
5S is also derived from Japanese concepts, but this time it is used to help improve workplace organization. The 5S gets its name from the five words that are used to remind people of the different ways that a facility can become more organized. These words are Sort, Straighten, Shine, Standardize and Sustain.
When implementing 5S many companies find that there is initial resistance from the front line employees, but after each area is organized, cleaned and optimized the way it should be, they are quite happy. A properly handled 5S strategy will not only eliminate waste but also help improve the day to day jobs of every employee.
Focusing On Processes
Most facilities conduct a variety of specific tasks or processes on a regular basis. This could be anything from building a house to manufacturing a vacuum cleaner. The overall process that is used to complete these tasks are further broken down into smaller processes. For example, when building a home one process may be pouring the concrete foundation.
There are, of course, many ways that a building crew could pour the foundation, but they are not all as good as each other. For example, digging out the area for the foundation with shovels is not nearly as efficient as using bulldozers or other heavy machinery.
The goal of any company should be to identify the ideal way to complete a process with as little waste as possible. This is where Kaizen can be extremely helpful. Kaizen will help people in the company to learn how to do things the best way and then standardize the process so that everyone is taking advantage of the improved process.
5S, on the other hand, would not be used to determine how a process should work or how it can be improved, which is why it would not be useful in this situation.
Focusing on Organization
If you don’t have a specific strategy in mind for keeping your facility properly organized, it can become a huge mess quite quickly. When considering organization in a facility it is important to look not just at clutter around the area (thought that is one component) but also about where things are kept and why things are done in a specific way.
Going back to the example of building a house that was used above, you can look at a job site and see that things are not organized the way they should be. If a crew is going to need to pour the concrete foundation, you will want to make sure all of the concrete supplies are located as close to the area where they will be used as possible. This will allow people to grab them and use them without wasting time walking to and from a warehouse or other area.
In addition, keeping the tools that are used to smooth out the foundation clean is very important. If you don’t clean them directly after use, the concrete could harden making it difficult (or even impossible) to make them useful again.
All of these types of things are covered in the 5S methodology, but not in the Kaizen system. Any time you are looking to sort things properly, straighten them out, keep them clean, make a standard and sustain your progress you are using the 5S system.
Both are Focused on Improving Efficiency
The simple explanations of each of these concepts shows that both are primarily used to help improve efficiency within a facility. Kaizen accomplishes this by identifying different processes that take place and making improvements on them. 5S works by looking for waste and messes and having them eliminated.
While the two methodologies are often set up as if a company has to choose between the two, they can actually work very well together. When a company properly implements both of these standards they are able to address inefficiencies from two different but complimentary ends.
The goal of both of these systems is to help eliminate wasted time, energy, equipment, inventory and other things so that the facility can work as efficiently as possible. Eliminating waste in every possible situation not only helps to improve the bottom line, but can also make your workplace safer.
Choosing & Implementing
Take some time to evaluate how 5S and Kaizen can work in your facility. Whether you choose to implement just one, both of them, or one at a time it is important to make sure that the implementation is done correctly. While these systems have a proven record of success when done properly, they can actually harm productivity if the management team doesn’t handle them right.
If your facility does not want to invest the necessary time and effort needed to use these processes, it is better to wait until such a time that it would be possible. With a good understanding of the difference between 5S and Kaizen, as well as how they can be used together, your facility has the opportunity to make a lot of positive progress toward a more efficient future.
Make sure to check out Creative Safety Supply for all your 5s and safety product needs.
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