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The Power of 5S

Posted on December 8, 2010 in 5S


“5S? We have been implementing 5S for years!” - a common respond by most when asked if they have heard of 5S. An explanation of 5S often comes in the way of “Oh, we get our people to organise and tidy up their workplace every day – keeps the place clean, you know!” A good practise, nonetheless, a mere shadow of what a true 5S system is about.

The 5S system has its foundation in 5 Japanese concepts that are roughly translated as Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardise and Sustain.  (Table 1)

Table 1

5S Principle           

Key Concepts
Sort 
Sort through and remove anything not needed to get the job done
Set in Order Assign locations for every item, control the quantity and make them easy to retrieve and return
Shine  Clean, eliminate the sources of contamination and inspect while cleaning
Standardise Use visual methods and error-proof principles to standardise the practises of the first 3S
Sustain Make 5S implementation a habit through training, communication and workplace discipline

Most organisational attempts at 5S implementation begin with much fanfare and enthusiasm but lacking in understanding and application. This results in the 5S system being reduced to a “housekeeping” practice.

When implemented correctly, 5S is a dynamic catalyst for continual kaizen to transform the workplace and the work culture. Organisations which have diligently adopted the 5S principles have created for themselves safer and more efficient workplaces where employee morale is high and there is good work discipline. Consistent standardised practices that result, give rise to higher quality and productivity, reduced defects, errors and equipment downtime, and more efficient utilisation of space, equipment and human resource. The overall effect? – better performance in terms of quality, cost and delivery and higher customer satisfaction for the organisation.

An invaluable side benefit of 5S implementation is the enhancement of teamwork and problem-solving initiatives among personnel involved. Employees are empowered to make changes in the workplace and bring it from one level to the next in an endless journey to achieve new heights of performance. 5S related workplace activities provides an effective and non-threatening platform for employees to brainstorm improvement ideas, participate in workplace improvement and utilise the individual employee’s unique talent to enhance workplace performance.

Employees involved in 5S implementation often express a sense of pride and satisfaction with the improvement achieved. There is clear appreciation of a clean, safe and organised workplace where equipment, information and material are in ready-to-use and easy-to-access condition. Employee hidden talents are also discovered and unleashed. Gradually, the work culture is transformed – employees are now looking for ways to improve the work place and take ownership for initiatives without the need of constant monitoring from management.

So if you are looking for a simple yet effective approach to transforming your work place and work culture, 5S may just be the answer.
 

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