How to Setup an Effective 5S System

August 22, 2012

One major problem organizations face when trying to implement 5S is knowing how to do it correctly. Let me give you five tips on how to setup an effective 5S System.


1. Realize that 5S is a system

5S should never just be thought of as just a Kaizen Event or program. Programs come and go and they have a connotation of having an end date. Nor should 5S be a series of disconnect 5S events to clean your workplace. Like any living system, you need to nurture and take care of it. You have to realize that for 5S to truly sustain you need to understand that it is a system made up of process that use tools to get results that change or improve your culture (see figure on right).

2. Set-up a 5S Design Team

Don’t expect 5S just to grow organically just because you think everyone should know what 5S is and how to apply it. I recommend that you implement a 5S Design Team to direct the efforts of your 5S System. Have them develop your 5S Vision, Goals, Objectives, 5S Implementation Plan, Communication Plan, Learning Plan and Reward & Recognition Plan.

For more information on 5S Design Teams and how to setup your 5S System send us a message at trainer@5Ssupply.com and ask about our “5S Total Support System.”

3. Take the time to make the time for 5S

Comments like “Do you want us to do our work or do 5S” shows that people don’t understand the importance of an effective 5S System. I read a study that mentioned people spend about 28 minutes a day searching for items. If we can reduce the search time by implementing 5S, we automatically have found time to perform 5S. If we can save 10-15 minutes a day by not searching for things, then we just created 10-15 minutes per day for 5S. The key is to use that time for 5S and not some other activity. As the 5S sensei Hiroyuki Hurano said “Behind all workplace successes or failures are the 5S.”

4. Spend more time on the 4th “S” Standardize

I hear it all the time, “Tony, we have 5S but can’t seem to sustain it.” Having done this for many years and trying to apply the good old PDCA cycle, I tell the person that they should re-look at their Standardize efforts. As part of Standardize, you need to make up the rules for the first three “S’s” (Sort, Set-in-Order, and Shine) but more importantly you need to follow and enforce the rules. This is the secret. If you can’t do this, then of course you can’t sustain. The power of setting standards is that you immediately see when something is abnormal or out-of-standard. Once this is recognized, you can fix it. If you don’t set standards, how will everyone know if something is wrong or what needs to be improved? Do yourself a favor and spend more effective time on the fourth S – Standardize.

5S Sustain Campaign Board

5. To Sustain you have to make Sustain an integral part of your 5S System

I remember talking with a Lean consultant friend of mine about 5S Red Tags (used in the first “S” Sort). He said he usually just had his team cut red construction paper to make red tags. I asked him that if the tags were just made for the Kaizen Event how anyone on the team would think that 5S is forever? I mentioned that we have pre-printed 5S Red Tags  that are easy to get (in several styles). These look much more professional and fitting of a world-class 5S System. I also told him about our 5S Red Tag Stations, Holding Area Kits and our exclusive 5S Sustain Campaign Board. When the tools you use make things looks more permanent then it is easier for people to understand that 5S is not just a one-time thing. This is a simple way to help Sustain your 5S System.

I hope these tips helped. For more, you can download a free copy of our benchmarking report “The Very Best of 5S”.

Let me know what you think. – Tony

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