Best Practices in 5S Manufacturing

uspo Load MoverNeed some better examples of how to implement 5S into manufacturing? Follow these tips for better efficiency.

If you’re a manufacturer, you’re likely familiar with the 5S process.

A part of the Kaizen philosophy, this lean method is a foundation that supports JIT, cellular manufacturing, total quality management, and six sigma initiatives. It is an especially attractive strategy to older manufacturing facilities looking to improve their bottom line by reducing costs.

Image courtesy of section on Lean Manufacturing
Image courtesy of section on Lean Manufacturing

Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain are the ingredients to an approach that results in numerous benefits including:

  • Helps workers learn to reduce waste
  • Reduces unplanned downtime
  • Reduces in-process inventory
  • Results in significant reduction in square footage of space needed for existing operations
  • Raises quality
  • Promotes safety
  • Builds customer confidence
  • Increases factory up-time
  • Decreases repair costs


Most manufacturers implement the 5S methodology with a 3-step process. This includes:

  1. Establishing a cross-functional team. This should include employees who work in all associated areas.
  2. Touring all areas associated with the process that is under review.
  3. Brainstorming ways to improve the process or organization to reduce waste. Waste is defined quite broadly. It can include waste of moving material, carrying too much inventory, producing scrap, all defects and/or reworking, waiting and even unnecessary motion.

Looking at various charts explaining 5S, it may help to understand some more specific examples of the kind of improvement opportunities you want to catch. For instance, searching for items is a waste and is common in many factories. A three-hour changeover routine may include 30 minutes of searching for parts and equipment. If you radically reduce changeover time, like from three hours to ten minutes, you obviously don’t have room for 30 minutes of searching.

Waste of motion is another common opportunity to improve. If someone searches for a tool or product and can’t find it, or couldn’t find keys to get into a cabinet where the item is located, that is wasteful motion. Walking a long distance to obtain needed parts, spending time reaching into bins to find parts, and hardware that is stored far away from the point of use are all examples of waste as well.

Value Stream Mapping (VSM) is a helpful way to analyze material, process, and information flow. Your team(s) would develop a map of the current state of how things are done. Using this and also by walking through the entire process, the team should notice non-value-added processes like the ones mentioned above. This will allow them to add a future state to the map. Of course, the future state will become the present state when improvements are made, so this is an ongoing process. This is what is known as “Continuous Improvement”.

Cut Waste of Motion, Space, and Unsafe Conditions

An extremely helpful tool in reducing several wastes is a battery powered tug, or cart pusher. By attaching a tug to a cart (or train of carts) when needed, workers reduce waste of motion by hauling material on any trip across the facility. Electric powered tugs also assist in reducing the space necessary for operations, including the need for forklifts (as explained here.) This equipment is easy to use, easy to implement, and has a fast ROI.

Battery-powered tugs also help eliminate waste by unsafe conditions. The equipment allows one operator to move thousands of pounds with no strain and minimal risk of injury. Visibility is also optimal during transport. To learn how a tugger will reduce your costs and improve your bottom line, contact Load Mover Inc. We are manufacturers who understand the lean process. Call us at 952-767-1720 or email today.