The 5s Methodology As Part Of The Lean Methodology
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The 5s Methodology As Part Of the Lean Methodology

No, it’s not a phone. 5S is a workplace organization technique that is closely tied with Lean manufacturing. Like other Lean techniques, the 5S methodology has broad applicability in many industries beyond manufacturing as well. 5S stands for Sort, Set-in-Order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain. That’s five S’s if you didn’t notice. Although it might look like a sequence of steps, it is actually more of an ongoing cycle, with each of the S’s dependent on the others. So, instead of looking at each as a single improvement step, let’s look at the ultimate purpose of 5S and how it ties in with Lean objectives.

One of the key principles of Lean is Just-in-Time production. This means providing the end customer with exactly what they need, when they need it, and in the amount they need. The 5S methodology can be seen as an internal fulfillment of this. The items and information in a workplace can be seen as a product that need to be where its customer needs it, when they need it and the quantity they need. This can apply to tools, orders, work-in-process, and parts. In an office setting, it can refer to emails, spreadsheets and other information based assets.

The Sort aspect of 5S means to determine which items are really needed and which are wasting space. Remember that a waste of space can result in wastes of time through searching and defects. Set-in-Order is another factor that eliminates this kind of waste. By Setting-in-Order, you place the items of the workplace at their place of use, eliminating the need to search, reach, or walk to retrieve them. Shine might seem like simple cleanliness, but it actually has more to do with making defects and other errors visible, so they can be identified and rectified before they lead to more waste. Standardize seems fairly straight forward; “define best practices.” However, you must remember that this is part of a Lean management system. This means that best practices do not stay best for long, and they should be replaced through continuous improvement. Standards allow you to evaluate what the current best possible practices are so they can be continuously questioned and updated. And then there’s Sustain. The 5S methodology actually brings us right back to the point I made at the beginning. Sustain means that all the S’s are being continuously maintained to support each other and the overall Lean system.

What’s 6S then?It’s an iPhone. Also it’s the same thing as 5S with “Safety” added as the 6th S. I’d say safety is kind of a no-brainer though. All of the other S’s help maintain a safe workplace in their own way.


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