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A Practical Guide To Implementing 5S In The Workplace

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The 5S system is a Japanese-based set of principles with the idea that an organized workspace results in better employee productivity and increased workplace safety. It is a method of workplace organization to increase employee productivity and work efficiency.

Developed by leaders of the Toyota Motor Company in the late 1960s, the 5S system is a lean manufacturing methodology based on five Japanese words: seiri, seiton, seiso, seiketsu, and shitsuke.

Toyota achieved worldwide fame as a class-leading vehicle manufacturer by implementing this system into their manufacturing framework called Toyota Production System.

Commonly applied in manufacturing companies to increase safety and eliminate waste from their production processes, the principles of 5S can be implemented in hospitals, offices, and many more.

5S - The Five Pillars of a Visual Workplace

The principles of the 5S methodology are often termed as the five pillars of a visual workplace. Let us learn about each principle in detail and also learn how to implement it in the workplace.

Seiri (Sort)

The first principle of the 5S system is about arranging all work items, equipment, and materials properly and removing anything unnecessary. The goal of sorting is to reduce extra clutter in the workplace.

Ask your employees what is necessary and what isn’t. For example, you should ask if an item is needed, and if it is, how much of it is needed, and if it needs to be in the exact place it is at the moment.

Place red tags on all unnecessary equipment and items and discard or move them accordingly. Keep in mind that the people who work in the particular area where the item is are the ones whom you should ask.

Eliminating unused and unnecessary items will help create more space for necessary things.

Seiton (Set in order)

This step is about organizing and storing items in their optimal and ergonomic locations, often referred to as “visual management”. The goal is to make work equipment and items easily accessible to employees.

To follow this step, you should first consider asking your employees which items are used the most frequently, who uses them, when they are used, how many of those items are needed, and where to place them.

Use tags, shadow boards, labels, and floor marking tape to highlight different items according to their use. Also, if your employees have to work with heavy and dangerous equipment, use safety signs to notify people to exercise caution.

Proper storage and tool organization help minimize workplace injuries and create a safer work environment.

Seiso (Shine)

The objective of the third principle of the 5S system is to create a clean and well-maintained workplace to motivate employee productivity and create a better work environment. This step helps employees feel comfortable in their workspaces and focus on their work.

Encourage cleanliness in your workplace and make sure your workplace is cleaned regularly. Assign employees to check if all office equipment is well-maintained and functioning correctly.

Also, instead of being dependent on the janitorial staff, encourage your employees to clean their work areas on their own. Your employees will develop a sense of ownership of their workspaces by cleaning it regularly, and this will make them think and work for the company as their own.

Following this step perfectly complements the previous phases of sorting and setting in order, and helps sustain the developments made by them.

Seiketsu (Standardize)

The fourth step is about standardizing the previous measures and implementing them across all branches of an organization. Its objective is to gain and maximize the benefits of the previous steps across all the aspects of a company.

Standardizing the new practices and methods of the first three steps will help to turn them into habits, rather than one-time practices. These best practices need to become the new standard for the workspace.

Create schedules and assign tasks among your employees to make sure that activities like cleaning and sorting are done regularly. Doing so will help these activities become routine tasks for your employees.

In the initial stages, it is a good idea to send emails and reminders to your employees about the 5S system to blend them into their regular lives.

Shitsuke (Sustain)

The last and final step of the 5S system is about sustaining and maintaining the positive effects caused by the previous steps. Its objective is to optimize an organization’s potential by eliminating everything that hinders productivity.

This step requires everyone in an organization to be involved in following and maintaining the previous principles of 5S. To do so, employers should train their employees and encourage communication among them to ensure they follow the principles of 5S.

Take the initiative and get involved with your employees in the process of making 5S a part of your company culture. Also, look at what companies around the world are doing to implement 5S in their workplaces. Adopting new methods can make things interesting for employees and keep improving the workplace consistently.

The Benefits of 5S in the workplace

Making 5S part of a company’s culture is a great way to involve employees in improving workplace conditions on a regular and consistent basis. Many companies around the world take advantage of the benefits of the 5S system by implementing it in their workplaces.

Here are some benefits of implementing 5S in the workplace -

Increased Productivity

Implementing the 5S system helps organizations achieve one of their primary goals, i.e., increased employee productivity. When a workplace is optimized to maximize efficiency and minimize clutter, it allows employees to focus more on their work instead of wasting time on unnecessary items.

Maximum Workplace Safety

One of the principles of the 5S system is about maintaining a clean and organized work environment. Clean and well-maintained workplace equipment minimize workplace accidents and injuries while increasing efficiency. Moreover, a workplace environment that is devoid of workplace accidents does well to show the employer’s concern for workplace safety.

Optimal Waste Reduction

The 5S system aims to reduce and minimize waste and clutter in workplaces. It helps employers to create perfectly organized workplaces where everything is correctly labeled and placed ergonomically. A workplace with easily accessible equipment makes it easy for employees to work more efficiently.

Increased Employee Commitment and Involvement

Successfully implementing 5S in a workplace makes cleanliness and proper organization a part of company culture. It helps employees to turn the 5S principles into routine habits and actively take part in following them regularly. When employees are involved and committed to improving their workplace, it makes them feel more comfortable and motivated at work. Moreover, such employees are less likely to be absent or search for other jobs.

Implementing and sustaining 5S methodology in your workplace

Even though 5S principles are more popular with manufacturing companies, other companies have realized that following 5S principles can be beneficial for many types of business operations. Schools, hospitals, offices, hotels, restaurants, etc. can make use of the 5S system to make continuous improvements to efficiency and productivity.

Take the example of corporate offices. In most cases, offices that do not follow 5S principles lack proper organization and have messy rooms, desks, and file cabinets. Also, office equipment in such workplaces is generally untidy and not well-maintained. Such a work environment is detrimental to employee productivity and work efficiency.

Practicing 5S in such offices could do wonders for increasing productivity and efficiency, eliminating waste, and increasing employee satisfaction.

So, now that you know what 5S is and what its benefits are, here are a few tips to implement it in your workplace and sustain it for the long term-

  • Start by creating teams to implement the 5S system in your organization. Each team must consist of at least one manager, supervisor, or leader in your company who can set an example to other employees.

  • Assign different roles to each team based on work areas. Ensure that everyone is fully committed and engaged to the cause.

  • Provide 5S training to your employees to make sure everyone is aware of the benefits and importance of 5S. Ensure that everyone takes part in the training sessions.

  • Measure the progress and changes brought about by following the 5S principles in your workplace. Perform audits to track changes in employee productivity and work efficiency. Also, take employee feedback regarding the changes brought by the 5S implementation.

  • Display and promote positive results and changes among your employees.

  • Conduct inter-team competitions and contests among your employees to help increase participation and motivate them to maintain and sustain the 5S principles.

Besides working as a content marketer at Vantage Circle, Shah Alif Ahmed is also an internationally certified nutrition specialist, competitive bodybuilder and a musician. For any queries reach out to