With origins in Japan, the 5 S’s (sort, straighten, sweep or shine, standardize and sustain) provide a process of maintaining and improving the process of manufacturing. Through the proper application of the 5 S’s, production lines are kept flowing and can be managed more easily by line supervisors as well as production level employees. When well implemented, the line supervisors will be able to see that the line is operating properly with minimal chances of interruption. The 5 S’s were developed to allow for a quick, simple visual inspection of the areas. If not followed, the lack of implementation will be visibly apparent and can be readily fixed by the line supervisors. The 5 S’s are not simply ‘rules to follow’ but are a best practice for creating and maintaining the most efficient and safe manufacturing process.
Sorting is the categorization and proper placement of tools needed in production at a given station. As importantly as the proper placement of the tools and material is the “Red Tag” areas where unnecessary items can be place to keep them out of the way until they can be removed. Proper Sorting will remove obstacles from the work area, reduce the chances of errors and make the work activity more efficient by eliminating distraction caused by unnecessary items. In short, have present only what is needed placed properly in the area where it is needed.
Straightening is the rational extension of sorting; it is the particular placement of each of the necessary items arranged to maximize efficiency. As importantly, Straightening is also the returning of items to their proper place. If executed correctly, line operators can move more fluidly, knowing exactly where every item is at the precise time it is needed. Straightening minimizes wasted movements and make each proper movement easier and faster to execute.
Sweep / shine involves the proper daily upkeep of the working area, tools and equipment used in the manufacturing process. By ensuring a daily inspection, tools maintain their calibration, sharpness and lubrication. Additionally, Sweep / Shine prevents dirt or clutter from building up on equipment, helping them last longer and operate more efficiently by reducing wear.
Standardize as the term suggest is to apply a common set of best practices across the organization. With standardization, the most efficient layouts and actions are used and line supervisors can easily identify variations and apply the proper corrections.
Sustain is the practice of applying the 5 S’s. It includes training, measurement and self direction. Line workers are expected to perform the 5 S’s without being directed to do so.
As a fundamental requirement in manufacturing in Japan, the 5 S’s allowed for Just In Time manufacturing. But the benefits did not stop there. The have found their way into other industries as well.