If you’re looking to optimize your facility into one that is more organized and efficient, you’ve come to the right place. Utilizing 5S is an excellent option for improving facility functions as it helps keep your workers on task, find information quickly, and keeps the space much safer than if it were a cluttered environment.

Establishing 5S in the workplace is no easy task. It requires constant work, renditions of new protocol, and regular maintenance to keep the method going strong. Despite the challenges, 5S is one of the best continuous improvement strategies a company can implement in their workplace.

The Five Steps to 5S

5S is not made up of one all-encompassing technique, but rather built of several smaller parts that work together to create one finished product. In a way, focusing on one goal at a time helps move objectives along, rather than the user becoming overwhelmed by the bigger picture.

Let’s explore the nuances of 5S.

Step #1: Sort

The Sort step is the first of five tasks that both leadership and employees must partake in to fully grasp the situation they must work in.

Think of the Sort step as some good old-fashioned spring cleaning. Out with the old and in with the new. Begin by going through all the items in the facility. This can include machinery, equipment, tools, and even files in an office setting. The old, broken, and unused items in the area must be separated out from the items that should be kept.

Remember to only keep the essentials. These are items needed to complete tasks. Once the area has been rummaged through, the unwanted items must be removed entirely from the area.

How to Complete the Sort Step

Remember, sorting refers to the following:

  • Removing waste from the workspace
  • Tossing old/broken items
  • Separating tools from frequently used and infrequently used
  • Avoiding “overpacking” or cramming the space with unnecessary items
  • Creating a space outside of the workspace for duplicates, extras, etc.

There are three different categories that tools and equipment can fall into when sorting through them during the 5S process. They are as follows:

  • Items you need
  • Misplaced items that belong in another work area
  • Items you don’t need should be tagged

Once each item is placed in their metaphorical pile, the next step can begin.

5S Tools to Assist with Sorting

You don’t have to do this alone! There are plenty of additional tools to use that will help you finish sorting through all the items in your facility.

Visual communication is especially helpful in this step. Consider creating a red tag area that will hold all the items that may need to be removed due to being broken or otherwise out of commission.

Check these out:

  • 5S Red Tags – These tags can be easily tied to an item that should not be on the work floor. The tagger will be able to mark where the item was, it’s function, the name of the item, and record several other pieces of information for others to go through and decide on whether it is needed in the area.
  • 5S Red Tag Sign – Following 5S rules is pointless if the tagged item stays where it is at on the work floor. Create a space specifically for red-tagged items and mark the area clearly with a sign. This way, these broken or useless pieces of equipment can be out of the way of workers and make room for new equipment.

Step #2: Set in Order

Once all the items have been picked over and sorted through, it’s time to get organized. This step is particularly important because it sets the precedent for how things will look from there on out.

Ensure that all items are neatly organized, and each item has its designated place to stay. It is particularly important to organize all the remaining items from the previous step logically. Placing objects further apart even though they are needed in quick succession within a process wastes too much time and resources for the employee completing the task.

An organized workplace, one that has been set in order, makes tasks much easier for workers to complete. This often involves placing items in ergonomic locations. That way, workers will not need to bend over or make any extra movements to reach those items.

How to Complete the Set in Order Step

Let’s start out with some examples of straightening the workplace after it has been sorted though:

  • Every item has its own “home”
  • Use dedicated spaces for working and dedicated places for tool storage
  • Separate the specialty tools from the everyday use tools
  • Use color and shapes to organize

Now, how do we get there? Let’s go over the basics of organization. To incorporate Set in Order, make sure to:

  • Prioritize ergonomics to reduce wasted motion, time, and space. Objects must always be within easy reach.
  • Group together similar items or categorize them for easy and recognizable storage.
  • Visually communicate missing items by using shadow boards or toolbox foam.
  • Label items to denote where they belong or what they are used for.

The trick to completing the Set in Order step is to always be open to new ideas in terms of storage manipulation. There’s always a better way to do something, according to 5S and continuous improvement.

5S Tools to Help with Setting Items in Order

Organization can be overwhelming, especially when doing so on a large scale for an office or manufacturing warehouse. There are tools that can help you create a beautifully organized workspace while at the same time improving the way your employees have access to the items they need.

These 5S tools may help you:

  • Foam Tool Kits – Let the color shine through and show you where missing tools belong. Either trace the tools and cut out the shapes yourself or let us do all the CNC cutting. You’ll be on the road to a more organized toolbox in no time. Not only do foam tool kits help you keep track of your tools, but they also prevent the employee from digging around in a tool drawer and cutting themselves on sharp objects.
  • Floor Marking Shapes – Keep your trash cans, forklifts, and pallets each in their own designated space with floor-marking shapes like these floor-marking corners. Choose from several sizes and many different colors depending on what you want to convey in your newly organized space.

Step #3: Shine

Time to get on your hands and knees and put in some elbow grease. Housekeeping is an important part of the 5S process. However, note that the initial cleaning efforts may be more difficult than what must be done down the road due to the years of buildup.

Proactive efforts to keep workplace areas clean and orderly ensure purpose-driven work, one of the biggest draws to adopt the 5S method. This means cleaning and maintaining the newly organized workspace. It can involve routine tasks such as mopping, dusting, etc. or performing maintenance on machinery, tools, and other equipment.

How to Complete the Shine Step

Shine looks like the following:

  • Inspecting spots that seem to become dirty quickly, there may be an underlying cause
  • Examining tools for wear and tear
  • Following cleaning procedures
  • Disassembling equipment to inspect moving parts
  • Basic cleaning of equipment

How do we get there? Follow these three steps:

  1. Clean
  2. Find the root cause
  3. Inspect

Cleaning an area and looking to find the cause of those grease stains or dust piles can lead you to finding problems before they become catastrophes.

5S Tools that Will Encourage Regular Cleaning

Sometimes a little help is nice when embarking on a large cleaning project at your workplace. Up until this step, you should have been working on decluttering. Now is the time to scrape off the dirt, dust, and grime of a well-used space.

Check out these tools to help you with your deep cleaning goals:

  • Floor and Tape Cleaner – Prep your floors for new floor markings with this floor and tape cleaner. Non-toxic, and residue free, this cleaner will leave your floors clean and ready to go for some new visual communication.
  • Cleaning Supplies Floor Signs – Place down floor signs to denote where cleaning supplies belong in the facility. This will help your workers find what they need quickly and efficiently.

Step #4: Standardize

This is where the 5S method starts to come together. Once you have sorted, set in order, and shined, it is now time to make habits and objectives. Standardizing your organizational and cleaning efforts will help your facility never dip back into old habits that created safety issues for employees.

To do this, employees and leadership members must work together to create a set of standards for both organization and facility processes. In short, the standardization step of 5S is where the first three steps obtain rules for how and when these tasks must be performed.

These standards can involve schedules, charts, lists, etc.

How to Standardize

The first rule of standardizing your work practices is to record all your 5S practices. Then you can:

  • Utilize both auditing and implementation checklists
  • Train employees via visual communication
  • Build a regular schedule for tasks

To get here, facilities must thoroughly understand what they are setting out to do in terms of standardization. That means following these few tips:

  • Work as a team for documenting tasks to ensure nothing has been forgotten.
  • Organize with a mind to simplify, otherwise you risk making the system too complicated for team members to follow.

Establish 5S Standards with 5S Tools

Standardizing a 5S program won’t happen easily if employees aren’t consistently reminded of their duties regarding safety and organization. Instead of hounding them constantly verbally or via email, the best way to promote safe behavior and following new protocol involves visual communication.

Visual communication includes the use of signs, floor markings, whiteboards, posters, labels, and anything else that will quickly attract the employee’s attention and inform them of hazards or protocol.

Check out these helpful 5S standardization tools:

  • Preventative Maintenance Themed Whiteboards – Make sure all equipment and machinery are running optimally by providing regular maintenance. Scheduling maintenance tasks can be a hassle, and people may still forget. By utilizing a maintenance specific whiteboard, no files can be lost, or date forgotten.
  • Custom Signage – Signage is one of the most useful options when it comes to reminding employees to stay safe and organized. Make your very own customized facility signs that catch employee attention, while also adhering to OSHA and ANSI safety standards.

Step #5: Sustain

Sustaining the new practices that have been established is oftentimes the most difficult part about switching over to a 5S system. This is not a system where Sor, Set in Order, and Shine can be done once. In fact, it is constant work for 5S to be successful. However, that “work” pays for itself in terms of increased productivity and efficiency.

Sustain new practices by conducting audits for the purpose of maintaining organizational discipline. This means the previous four S’s must be continued over time. This is achieved by developing a sense of self-discipline in employees who will participate in 5S. A shift in workplace culture.

How to Sustain 5S

So, you’ve gotten all the way to the step of sustaining your new 5S program. You might have noticed that it takes longer than a few business days to really get 5S going. Regardless, all that work can’t go to waste. A sustainable 5S program looks like the following:

  • Regular check-in meetings
  • 5S audits take place regularly
  • Mistakes are met with refresher training
  • Communication is valued

How to get to this state of 5S prioritizes the following efforts:

  • A schedule that revolves around the company’s 5S culture.
  • Teaching employees how to perform 5S related duties via demonstration
  • Ensure new hires understand their roles and support them until they are confident enough to perform their tasks unsupervised.
  • Always be open to feedback. Voicing what is working and what isn’t is essential for both leadership and employees.

Explore the Concepts of Sustaining 5S with Digital Tools

There are plenty of resources and suggestions to be had when looking at sustaining 5S in your workplace. Creative safety supply can help you!

Check out these excellent reference resources for the 5S method:

  • Our 5S Guide – This 24-page, downloadable guide can assist both employees and leadership in understanding the importance of sustaining a 5S culture.
  • 5S Revealed – This DVD introduces the 8 wastes of Lean, visual communication methods, ways to incorporate standardization into your workplace, and more essential 5S concepts.

As with many activities people participate in, there’s always more than one way to complete an objective. In 5S, there are all kinds of different tools to look to for guidance on building a positive work culture that prioritizes safety, efficiency, and quality.

The Trick for Maintaining a Successful and Sustainable 5S Culture

Creating and maintaining a successful 5S program relies on one factor— buy-in from all departments.

Participation in this method is essential for innovation, new ideas, and for sustaining what is already there. The best way to do this is from the top to all the way down. If the company leaders are not involved, then progress is practically impossible.

Overall, 5S is an excellent Lean manufacturing method to start out with as you establish a more efficient, productive, and safer place to work for employees.

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