If a normal day at the office involves your employees running around with their heads cut off because they can never find what they're looking for, it's time for a change. Maybe you’ve heard about the benefits of lean manufacturing but you have no idea how or where to start. Or maybe you’re not sure if your organization is ready to make that kind of change. If that sounds like your organization then you as a manager or owner are probably looking for a simplified version of lean manufacturing. The 5S system provides improved: customer service, efficiency, safety and, our favorite, increased profitability.
What are the 5 S’s?
5S is a component of the Kaizen principle of Lean Manufacturing. A key difference between 5s and lean manufacturing is that 5S focuses more on getting your workspace clean, neat and organized than finding wasteful areas. But, as in life, you can’t clean up without eliminating some waste in the process. That’s what makes it an excellent place to start if your company isn’t sure if it wants to go completely lean. The recommended 5 steps to accomplish this are: Sort, Set-in-order, Shine, Standardize and Sustain. It may sound simple, but that's what makes it so efficient. It involves minimal effort for the impact it will make on your business.
Step 1: Sort
If you’ve ever cleaned out your garage, then you’ve done this task of culling objects into two categories of keep or throw out. This step also aids in organizing and counting your inventory. It is important to refrain hoarding unnecessary items because that is an easy way to wasting money on storage space. If in doubt, move it out!
Step 2: Set in order
Lay out a plan for how you intend to organize the remaining items. Make sure that wherever you decide to put your equipment and materials makes sense; i.e. keeping related items close together while keeping potentially hazardous items far apart. Also, set your methods for upkeep of the storage plan. In addition to saving money, doing this will save your company time by making it easy for employees to find what they need when they need it. Another important step in set in order, is to keep kitting in mind. In other words, put items that are used in conjunction with one another together. Take for instance, the process of shipping you would keep tape, tape gun, packaging peanuts, boxes, UPS labels together. Do this for any repetitive processes in manufacturing.
Step 3: Shine
Now that everything has been counted and put away it’s time for the real cleaning to begin. Inspect the work that has been done so far to make sure it was done right and make any necessary corrections or improvements. Clean and inspect while in the process of manufacturing goods so no defects are missed.
Step 4: Standardize
This is the stage where you establish best practices for your workplace. Set your standards for maintaining organization in the work areas. For example, it is a good idea to schedule routine checks of your facilities to ensure all regulations are being followed. If it is revealed that there is an area that your employees are struggling to upkeep, then find the source of the problem and make the necessary changes.
Step 5: Sustain
Over time your procedure should become routine for employees at all levels. Now that your company has come so far and are working in clean areas, be mindful not to slip back into your old habits.
When done correctly and successfully implementing it into your companies daily operations, the 5S system provides improved customer service, efficiency, safety and increased profitability. If you like the results and want to see further benefits of lean, then you've already done the prep work for getting your warehouse fully lean.
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