The Basics of 5S

5 S Graphic

“Where is the strainer?”  “Who put away the salad tongs?”  If you’re like most people, you have a place for everything in your kitchen.  But when someone who doesn’t know your system, like a young child or a house guest, puts something in the wrong place, you can get frustrated searching for it.

Much the same happens in organizations.  It’s not uncommon for workers to spend over 10% of their time searching for parts, tools, papers, and files.  A disorganized work environment can be a significant source of frustration, wasted time, lost productivity and hidden problems.  And if your customers enter these disorganized areas, it conveys a message that your team may be unorganized and incompetent.

There is a simple technique which was developed in Japan that provides a systematic approach to organize your work areas and increase productivity.  It’s called “5S” for five sequential steps.

  1. Sort – Separate what you need from what you don’t need and get rid of what you don’t need.  Think of this as getting ready for your garage sale.  Get rid of what you don’t need.
  2. Straighten or Set in Place – Place all needed items in a location that is optimal for performance.  Like storing your coffee mugs by the coffee maker.  Everything has a “home”.  Place the items used the most closest to where they are needed.
  3. Shine – Clean the work area.  A clean work environment is safer, improves quality, and makes it easier to see problems or abnormalities.
  4. Standardize – Develop standard processes to do the first 3 items.  Examples of this include annual file shredding, or weekly housecleaning.
  5. Sustain – Develop the culture and self-discipline to ensure all employees follow “5S”.

Sounds easy, right?  The technique is easy, but there can be resistors who like to remain disorganized.  Before embarking on this, make an effort to get buy-in from all those who will be affected, or you will never get to steps 4 and 5, and you will slip back to prior conditions.

Marie Kondo built an empire using many of these concepts.  Use 5S to bring these concepts to your business.

Our team can help you introduce and implement 5S in your organization.

This article was originally published by Virginia Business Front magazine.


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