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How do I lead a 5S Project?


A 5 S project is a big undertaking, and many do not know where to begin when asked to lead one. So, before we look at how to lead one, let's first look at what it is, and how it is helpful:

What is a 5S project?
A 5 S project is a project where you do the 5 "S"s: Sort, Set, Shine, Standardize, Sustain

What are the benefits of 5S?
The benefits are many, but to name a few, using the 5 S system you.


  • Improve safety

  • - Decrease down time

  • - Raise employee morale

  • - Identify problems more quickly

  • - Develop control through visibility

  • - Increase product and process quality

  • - Strengthen employees' pride in their work

  • - Promote stronger communication among staff

  • - Empower employees to sustain their work area

  • - Establish convenient work practices

How do you lead a 5S project?
Start by doing a workplace scan of a specific work area.

Next, make your plan and motivate your crew.
You do this by using the insights gained from the workplace scan to create a message board or metrics kiosk for the work area. On this board you will want to post "before" photos or the area. You will want to post a description of the purpose and function of each area of improvement. You will also want to include a physical diagram to trace the movement of people and product through the area.

By doing this you have laid out a clear road map or plan, as well as what the end result should look like. You have set the standard for your crew and informed them of what you expect up-front. You also have laid the ground work for a successful 5 S project.

You are now ready to start the five "S"s of the workplace improvement:

  1. Sort through, sort out;

  2. Set in order;

  3. Shine;

  4. Standardize;

  5. Sustain.

Your job when leading a 5 S project is to recognize what areas need improvement most, and then ensure they receive the necessary improvements. Even the simplest of tasks can be eating into your profits, so as the leader you need to identify where improvements can be made. Let's look at an example that you can apply to your own company:

Example: An auto mechanic has the majority of the tools he needs to fix your car at his fingertips, however, with every car he fixes he will need to run a test, and each test requires wire, and he won't know what size test wire until the car is in the shop and he is under it working on it.

When the car arrives, he looks at the work order, checks the problem, then heads for the box of test wires, which happens to be located about halfway across the shop in the tool bin. There are a variety of wires of all different sizes and materials in a box, none of which are labeled. He spends about 3-5 minutes pulling wires out of the box back at his tool bench. He then returns the box of wires to its original location so that it's there for the next worker in need.
Occasionally, the wire size and type he needs isn't in the box because someone else is using it. Then he has to walk the shop floor to find it. Once he does, he returns to the car, and does the work.

Ok, while a mechanic may not be the best example because they are paid by the hour for how long it takes to fix the car, you can see that there is an area of his work that could use 5S improvement. Even if it is only 3-5 minutes. If he services 20 cars in a day, that 3-5 minutes becomes an hour to an hour and a half of wasted time (and money) each day.

With 5S, you can find better ways to avoid time wastes in your business. So as you lead a project, do a test run, and watch for areas that could use improvements and that waste time.

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