When it comes to Lean manufacturing, 5S can help your business improve performance which in turn results in reduced costs, reduced defects and an increase in profit.

Mike Aistrop, senior consultant at Renault-Nissan Consulting explains the 5S  methodology.


When it comes to Lean manufacturing, there are a number of methodologies and philosophies organisations follow in order to be safer, more efficient, lower costs and improve customer deliveries. One of the most significant elements in implementing Lean processes and practices is 5S . It’s fundamental to any serious business improvement programme, but if you haven’t heard of it or want to know more, the following information should answer your questions.


What is 5S?

5S methodology is a tool that helps businesses to improve the performance of their work activities, be that office based or on the factory floor. A good 5S activity will result in improved safety, the reduction of costs, elimination of Wastes within processes and increased productivity. It is commonly acknowledged that 5S is a fundamental element of any Lean programme, providing a  simple but effective way to help managers and other employees become more organised and achieve greater standardisation across their processes.


There are five particular elements or goals within any business that are related to the 5S approach. These are:

  • Safety
  • Visual order
  • Organization
  • Cleanliness
  • Standardization

What are the Five Ss?

The 5S methodology comprises five Japanese words, all of which refer to one of the key steps to optimum workplace organisation and efficiency. The English equivalent words are translated as followed:

  • Seiri – Sort
  • Seiton – Straighten, Set
  • Seiso - Shine, Sweep
  • Seiketsu – Standardize
  • Shitsuke - Sustain.


Although the entire process of implementing 5S can be complex and carried out over a long period of time, put simply, it is designed to help an organisation improve. By using the 5S System, Lean companies can do the following:


Sort – organise items, resources or materials that are used on a regular basis for maximum efficiency and remove any items or materials no longer in use. Only have what you need to do the work


Set– ‘a place for everything and everything in its place’, think the about the cutlery tray in a kitchen draw.  This step helps ensure people, processes and workflows are organised in the most efficient way.


Shine – ensure a ‘clean’ workplace. Cleaning the workplace is not just about hygiene, it’s also about inspection of the workplace and these inspections help team members spot the signs of a system or process that is failing.


Standardise –Once the workplace is organised and clean you don’t want the return to the previous condition and, so you establish clear and simple workplace standards. Typically, these would be in the form of photographs for the expected 5S standards for that workplace. These are supported be a regular inspection schedule to ensure standards are maintained.


Sustain – instil a culture in which employees continue to review, monitor and improve 5S conditions. 5S has to become part of every organisations culture and all team members must feel empowered to maintain and improve 5S conditions


What are the benefits of adopting the 5S methodology?

Although every organisation is unique and may have different requirements or goals when it comes to Lean principles, there are a number of standard benefits you can expect within your organisation from the 5S System.


By implementing Lean principles that promote 5S – Sort, Set, Shine, Standardise and Sustain – an organisation can immediately begin on the path to a more efficient business. By streamlining processes and cutting out unnecessary waste, any company can instantly reduce costs and become more profitable.


There can also be a positive impact on customer success and satisfaction, which will in turn, lead to business profitability. By improving processes and implementing 5S, orders can be fulfilled in a more efficient way, often cutting the lead time from order placement to delivery. Process improvements and identifying areas for improvement can also reduce costly defects. By highlighting and removing problems in a work flow or production, customer satisfaction in the overall quality of products can increase, helping to ensure greater success and profitability.


Does my company have to be a manufacturing business to benefit from 5S methodology?

The answer is NO, although Lean processes originated in Japanese manufacturing plants, any business can learn and benefit from 5S methodology. Other types of organisations that have seen success from implementing 5Sthese include universities, schools, hospitals and airports.


To start your Lean journey or to find out more about implementing the 5S methodology in your organisation, contact one of our experienced consultants at RNC.info@RNConsulting.co.uk

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