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Benefits of 5S: Is Lean 5S just Housekeeping?

Updated on July 11, 2015
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I am a trainer and consultant in lean manufacturing, Six Sigma, quality management, and business management.

Lean Manufacturing 5S

5S Lean Manufacturing
5S Lean Manufacturing | Source

5S Lean

What are the benefits of 5S implemented as part of Lean manufacturing? Many people mistakenly believe that 5S is just housekeeping but it far more than that by a long way.

If you could improve the efficiency of your production area by 10% would you do it? Would you believe that simple reorganization of your workplace could achieve this or much more. Well 5S can help you achieve efficiency improvements in some environments by as much as 30% or even more!

5S is a basic building block of lean manufacturing and provides a solid foundation upon which to build future improvements within your business. The benefits of lean manufacturing can only be realized through implementing the full philosophy of lean and the various lean tools.

5S is a very inexpensive tool to implement, if your team is coming up with highly expensive proposals for 5S implementation then they are probably not thinking hard enough about your problems. 5S is not just applicable to the factory floor, the principles of 5S can be applied in any setting or application, you can apply 5S in the office, even on the files on your computer hard drive.

The benefits of 5S are very significant when compared to the relatively inexpensive and simple implementation process.

Origins of 5S

The history of 5S within Toyota is not as clear as for some tools and seems to be fairly confused, some attributing it to Toyota and others to the Japanese Plant Maintenance Institute. Whatever the specific origins are it is clearly part of TPM (Total Productive Maintenance) and has been well absorbed into the Toyota Production System (TPS) and lean manufacturing.

However 5S clearly reflects the original Ford tool CANDO;

  • Cleaning up
  • Arranging
  • Neatness
  • Discipline
  • Ongoing Improvement

So i would suggest that as Toyota based much of their original learning on what they bought from Ford on their various visits that 5S is a derivative of the Ford CANDO system

5S Benefits

Benefits of 5S Before and After
Benefits of 5S Before and After | Source
Clear Layout a benefit of 5S
Clear Layout a benefit of 5S | Source
5S Benefits organized work stations
5S Benefits organized work stations | Source

Benefits of 5S

5S has many benefits as part of lean manufacturing, it is suggested that improvements in the order or 10 to 30% in manufacturing efficiency can be gained through implementing 5S. This is certainly true in my experience, having run many projects in a variety of industries I have seen improvements in these orders in every project, even those companies that prided themselves on their house keeping.

Typically the benefits of 5S will cover the following areas;

Efficiency Improvements

Efficiency, improved due to the removal of clutter and the highly organized ergonomic workspace that is created through the application of 5S.

Reduced Delays

Delays reduced due to more visible workspace organization, missing tools and components immediately obvious. Problems are immediately obvious as they will tend to manifest as things being placed where they do not belong, thus driving people to fix them quicker.

Quicker Changeovers

Setups reduced due to ergonomic layout and organization of tools and equipment in a clearly labeled and highly visible manner

Improved Morale and Staff Involvement

Morale improved due to the employees involvement in improving their own workspace to their own benefit making their work easier and less stressful (remember lean is not about turning people into robots).

Increased Sales

Marketing tool due to the tidy and organized layout resulting from your implementation of 5S.

Improved Quality Performance

Quality improved due to standardized ways or working and basic maintenance of tools and machines. The correct tools and equipment being in place means that the right tools are used for the job, plus the ergonomic workplace reduces opportunities for handling damage and the like.

Reduced Energy Costs

Energy savings due to the improved efficiencies.

Fewer Accidents

Safety improvements due to the removal of clutter that creates hazards, “a place for everything and everything in its place”, and an ergonomic layout that prevents stressful “dangerous” movements such as removing heavy objects from high or low locations.

Inexpensive to Implement

Invest in a multimillion dollar machine to gain an extra 10% improvement in efficiency or have a methodical method of reorganizing your workplace that will cost you only the time taken to do it? The gains made by implementing 5S will cost you next to nothing especially when compared to other initiatives.

5S Continuous Lean Improvement

5S continual workplace improvement
5S continual workplace improvement | Source
5S is not just Housekeeping
5S is not just Housekeeping | Source

Implementing 5S to gain Benefits

5S lean is best implemented under the guidance of an expert, either your experienced internal lean practitioner or through the hiring of a lean trainer or hiring a lean consultant to provide in-house 5S training.

5S is a team based approach that requires the involvement of everyone in the specific area to be improved as well as involving people from outside the area for additional ideas. 5S is very much a hands on tool, all those involved should expect to be involved in every aspect of the implementation from clearing out the clutter through to cleaning and the audits and continual improvement.

5S is not a once off activity, the organization should encourage continual improvement of the workplace and promote a lack of tolerance for things that are not to standard.

5S Builds a Firm Foundation for all Other Improvements

5S does not just tidy your work environment as you would do for the visit of the chairman of the board or some other local dignitary. It is an ongoing and sustained improvement in how your organize your work place.

But one of the most important parts of 5S is that of standardizing your work (The 4th step of 5S - Seiketsu). Standardization provides you with that firm foundation on which all other improvements can be built. Until you have a repeatable and stable process you have no idea what is causing your problems and no way to ensure that improvements will either make a difference or even remain effective.

Simple documents to define how work should be performed (Standard Operating Procedure (SOPs or Work Instructions) can be created very simply using standard word processing packages and digital pictures ensuring that everyone knows exactly the best method for conducting an operation. This will reduce differences between shifts and different operators as well as giving something that can be improved on.

5S Lean Manufacturing Video

Steps of 5S

The following are the main steps of 5S (Japanese and English terms) with a brief explanation, if you would like more details of how to implement each step look at the 5S hub; 5S

Seiri or Sort
- Removing all unnecessary clutter from the workplace leaving only the necessary items.

Seiton or Set in order
- Arrange all items visually for ease of use and retrieval. Also to allow missing items and shortages to be identified rapidly.

Seiso or Shine & Check
- Clean (and keep clean) the work place so that problems can be identified when they occur.

Seiketsu or Standardise
- Make the first three steps part of the everyday routine with regular audits and so on.

Shitsuke or Sustain

- Create a culture with a shared set of values that maintains all of the above.

And for some organisations the 6th S creating 6S as some like to describe it;

- Ensure the safety of your employees through the implementation of the first five steps.

5S Lean Video

Real Benefits of Implementing 5S

If your organisation has implemented 5S have you observed any real benefits?

See results

Housekeeping or 5S


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      kuldeep 11 months ago

      Great article! i visit your page and i find this article valuable and helpful. Thank you for sharing.