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What is the five "S"method?

The 5 "S" method is used in conjunction with lean manufacturing to teach employees how to organize their workstations. It has been shown that proper implantation of the 5 "S" method will improve efficiency, product quality, and it helps to improve safety. Reducing waste and improving manufacturing processes is certainly at the top of the list for many businesses that are trying to save money. While many companies will use Six Sigma or TQM, to improve the way their business currently runs, you may be surprised to learn that one of the most effective tools of a process improvement strategy is the 5 "S" method. The 5 "S" method is broken down as follows:

  • Sort (Seiri)-This is the first "S" and it focuses, on eliminating unnecessary items from the workplace.One of the first steps is to sort through all the tools and materials, in the work environment and eliminate the unused ones. Sometimes this process is known as red tagging. A red tag will be placed on all the items that are not needed to complete your job. If you do not discard the items, you then move them to a holding area. The reason for this is to be able to evaluate the red tag items, for future use. Some used items may be moved to a warehousing facility, while other items may be discarded. In addition sorting eliminates broken tools, obsolete materials, and raw scrap materials. One of the biggest benefits is that this allows you to free up valuable space.
  • Set In Order (Seiton)-This "S" focuses on effective storage methods and efficiency. Set in order is sometimes called straighten, because it is the process of arranging tools and equipment, after a manner that promotes effective work flow. There are a few questions that can help you determine how to take this step. They are:
    1. What tools are needed in order to effectively do the job?
    2. Where should these tools be kept?
    3. How many of these tools are needed in order to do the job?
    4. Some strategies for set this step include:outlining work areas and locations, painting floors, modular shelving and cabinets, and shadow boards. This way by having a designated area for everything, you will eliminate wasted time by your employees as they search for items.
  • Shine (Seiso)-The next "S" is for shine or sweeping. All clutter and junk should be eliminated by this point, and the next process is to thoroughly clean the work environment. Keep in mind that daily follow-up cleaning will be necessary in order to maintain the improvement levels you have set in place. Your employees will take pride, in a clean and clutter-free work environment. The shine phase will also unveil underlying problems such as leaks, broken equipment, fatigue, contamination, vibration, and misalignment. One of the major benefits of this step is that small problems, can be fixed before they become big problems.
  • Standardize (Seiketsu)-The fourth "S" concentrates on making employees practice the best standardized rules for their area. Employees should be involved in the development of these standardized rules, because they are valuable for the information they deal with on a day to day basis. In the end, everyone should know exactly what their job responsibilities are, and they should know exactly how to perform them.
  • Sustain (Shitsuke)-This refers to maintaining and reviewing standards that have been set. This is often the most difficult "S" to implement and achieve. Keep in mind that once you have established the first four "S", they are the new way of operating. You must put steps in place to avoid a gradual decline of the new rules, to adjust back to the old way of operating. It is also important to understand that if an issue does arise, (such as a suggested improvement or a new way of operating), then a review of the first four "S" is appropriate.
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