With Lean 5S
by Christopher D. Chapman
elevision shows exploring the virtues of better living through organization are ubiquitous. On such popular shows as “Mission Organization” (Home & Garden Television), “Life
Simplified” (Fine Living) and “Clean Sweep” (TLC),
for example, homeowners and a team of organization professionals clean up homes, get rid of junk that has accumulated over the years, spruce up and
In 50 Words
• A 5S system (sort, set in order, shine, standardize
and sustain) creates a disciplined, clean and
well-ordered work environment.
• Many organizations implement only the first
three steps and then wonder why the system
• Lack of a robust 5S system makes other lean
organize to simplify lives and allow people to make
more efficient use of their time.
Before the homeowners get organized, their lives
are characterized by undue complications and hassles—they are constantly searching for such things as misplaced keys, paying late fees because they
misplaced bills, running late because their children
cannot find their homework or tripping over toys
that were not put away.
Similar types of organization problems that rob
us of valuable time at home exist in the workplace.
Such problems are exacerbated in business because
there are larger numbers of people working together and countless hours of time engaged in these very costly nonvalue adding activities.
In manufacturing, employees are searching for
misplaced tooling and components, obsolete parts
litter the production floor, supervisors spend hours
looking for work in process (WIP) amid a sea of
incomplete orders scattered throughout the shop,
and nonconforming products are mixed with good
parts and are inadvertently sent to customers.
Administrative work environments are not
immune to this lack of organization. Administrative
personnel waste precious time searching for misplaced files in cluttered filing systems and offices, sifting through piles of paperwork on their desks
and inboxes looking for specific documentation or
scouring through myriad outdated e-mails.
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HIDDEN FACTORY. Here is a workplace where status of operation is not apparent and where wastes (transportation, inventory, motion, waiting, overproduction, overprocessing and defects) are prevalent.
These day-to-day workplace organization issues
manifest into bigger problems such as:
• Longer lead times.
• Low productivity.
• Higher operating costs.
• Late deliveries.
• Ergonomic challenges.
• Space constraints.
• Frequent equipment breakdowns.
• Hidden safety hazards.
The 5S System
The systematic corrective action to this problem
is to clean up, get organized and make this the way
you do business. In other words, it is time to implement 5S: 1. Sort.
2. Set in order.
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5S is systematic and organic to lean production, a
business system for organizing and managing manufacturing operations that requires less human effort, space, capital and time to make products
with fewer defects. It creates a work environment
that is disciplined, clean and well ordered.
This “there is a place for everything and everything is in its place” type of organization, characteristic of companies such as Toyota, the pioneer of lean production, exposes inefficiencies and disruptions in workflow so these problems are no longer hidden and can be solved.
When 5S is properly implemented, it creates
a visual factory that allows for quick determination of the workplace status. At a glance, managers and supervisors can see when things are out of order, production has fallen behind or stalled,
VISUAL FACTORY: This workplace tells us where things are, where things don’t belong and what needs to be done, by when, in what quantity, by whom and how.
or WIP is not where it should...