How 5S Fits Manufacturing and Material Handling

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

5S focuses heavily on the illumination of waste, making it a beneficial tool in lean manufacturing. It is one of several outlined methods useful for continuous improvement, or Kaizen. The order is always the same: sort, set in order, shine, standardize, sustain. Here is what they mean for manufacturers.

Sort – Clutter is waste, so it is important to organize the entire facility and identify anything that is not needed. You’ll also start to see whether there is waste in storage methods. Some things that you may need to eliminate during the sort process:

  • Cabinet contents, even file cabinets with paperwork that you don’t need
  • Gages that aren’t to be used immediately
  • Obsolete equipment and machines
  • Packaging materials or extra supplies that don’t belong in the area
  • Parts and assemblies
  • Extra tooling
  • Cleaning supplies or towels
  • Garbage

Set in order – Once you’ve sorted everything, you can examine the workflow to identify improvements here. Waste of motion is primarily found in this step. You can use a Spaghetti Diagram to track how and where operators travel to get what they need for production. Using this, you can rearrange stations and equipment to create a more natural flow. Set in order is also when you want to arrange and label items so that they’re easy to find, use, and put away.

Shine – This is obviously the housekeeping section. A clean environment is not only more enjoyable, but also brighter, making it easier to detect defects or find missing objects. You want to sweep, mop, and polish the floors, dust, clean windows and walls, and clean tables and machines. While you clean machines is the perfect time to inspect for loose parts, check gages, test motors, etc. Cleaning machines will also help you save time in the future. If you have a machine that is filthy, and it starts to leak oil, you won’t be able to easily spot the source. If the machine is spotless, an oil leak will be quite obvious.

Standardize – This simply means to have a consistent method to everything: training, tagging, identifying markers (symbols for the first aid kits, for example,) storing tools, posting visual instructions, and everything else an employee needs to do, use, or find.

Sustain – Of course, once you’ve changed everything for the better, you don’t want to revert back to a waste-filled process. Sustain the changes to maintain the benefits of 5S.

For more ideas on how this relates to manufacturing, see our best practices article here. For more ways to minimize waste of motion, improve productivity, and create a safer workplace, contact Load Mover, Inc. Our battery-powered tugs are used in manufacturing facilities around the nation to support lean manufacturing and forklift-free environments. Find out how at 952-767-1720 or inquire through