5S: Neat work environment or much more?

5S - Stanwick Management consultants

5S is a method for creating and maintaining a pleasant, orderly, tidy, safe and productive working environment with all the people involved, based on agreements and via 5S steps.

If you look at the 5 steps in a “dry” way, you can expect that the following (recognisable?) situations will be avoided after the implementation:

  • that material, tools or spare parts that used to be lying around, or were in the way or in wrong and/or other places, have now disappeared
  • the searching for materials, tools, etc., including unnecessary movements
  • a dirty work environment, installations & machines, with, for example, oil on the floor, defective parts, etc.
  • unsuitable, defective, or too few or too many tools
  • defects due to the use of unsuitable tools
  • unsafe situations, and therefore accidents
  • shortage of space

Practice shows that these expectations are met. But it goes much further than this.

There is a greater involvement of everyone in the organisation and its goals.

  • A reduction of tensions & frustrations around everyday problems, such as looking for materials, not keeping agreements with others, having to clean up after another colleague, working with unsuitable material, improvement proposals that are not tackled.
  • Because the people in the work zone themselves are involved, and even take the lead in 5S and decide for themselves how this should be done in concrete terms, people take responsibility for the active management of their own work zone with "full enthusiasm".
  • The working environment gives a positive, stable, and well-organised image to customers and employees.
  • Something is actually happening about proposals for improvement: positive input is rewarded.
  • Through frequent, effective & structured communication around 5S (this can be initially expanded with other KPIs), everyone knows where the organisation is going and wants, and what everyone's role is in this: everyone is heading in the same direction.
  • Carrying out and evaluating 5S (peer) audits stimulates an open, respectful dialogue between colleagues.

E=QxA²: Coaching & supportive leadership are stimulated.

  • Leaders learn how to involve employees in change (change management)
  • Leaders learn to positively & effectively make use of the practical knowledge of the employees in the workplace, which is seen as a sign of appreciation by the employees.
  • Leaders learn the power of self-direction, stimulation, coaching & support.
  • Leaders learn the power of frequent, effective & structured communication.
  • Leaders learn the power and importance of standard work.

The stability, the predictability and thereby the efficiency of activities and processes in the workplace will be increased.

  • There is a basic organisation on the shop floor, which is maintained by the employees (without a "basis", we cannot structurally & continuously improve).
  • There are clear agreements about who does what in the context of safeguarding the basic organisation in the workplace. The organisation learns to comply with planned agreements, based on jointly-established standards.
  • Checking the "condition" of the workplace is simpler: there is a "standard" for this.
  • It becomes easier to see when something goes wrong.
  • There is a positive effect on costs without additional major efforts: time savings, space savings, smoother flow of goods, a faster detection of malfunctions, longer service life of the installations.

During the implementation of 5S, the foundation can be laid for subsequent improvement processes, which will therefore have a faster effect.

Via a 5S implementation, the organisation can be brought into contact with other insights & techniques for improvement:

And finally:

Cleaning your own home once a week is easy. Keeping things neat and tidy afterwards together with your other housemates according to the agreements that have been made is a greater challenge. 5S also requires the same continuous attention & effort, from both the people in the workplace and from the management! 5S is not a "project" (just as Lean is not a "project"), it is a step towards continuous improvement, towards a lean organisation. It therefore shouldn't stop at 5S. That would be a missed opportunity.


Process improvement

Today we are flooded with tools & techniques to improve our business process. Just think of Six Sigma, TPM (Total Productive Maintenance), Lean, QRM (Quick Response Manufacturing), TQM (Total Quality Management), ... All these techniques have undeniably their advantage, but are often built from a well-defined vision. An integrated approach is thus required.
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