Implementing 5S Workplace Organization Methodology Programs in Manufacturing Facilities

Many manufacturing facilities have opted to follow the path towards a “5S” workplace organizational and housekeeping methodology as part of continuous improvement or Lean manufacturing processes.

5S is a system to reduce waste and optimize productivity through maintaining an orderly workplace and using visual cues to achieve more consistent operational results. The term refers to five steps – sort, set in order, shine, standardize, and sustain – that are also sometimes known as the 5 pillars of a visual workplace. 5S programs are usually implemented by small teams working together to get materials closer to operations, right at workers’ fingertips and organized and labeled to facilitate operations with the smallest amount of wasted time and materials.

The 5S system is a good starting point for all improvement efforts aiming to drive out waste from the manufacturing process, and ultimately improve a company’s bottom line by improving products and services, and lowering costs. Many companies are seeking to make operations more efficient, and the concept is especially attractive to older manufacturing facilities looking to improve the bottom line by reducing their costs.

“A place for everything, and everything in its place” is the mantra of the 5S method.  The result is an improved manufacturing process and the lowest overall cost for goods produced.  Implementing the 5S method means cleaning up and organizing the workplace in its existing configuration. It is typically the first lean method that organizations implement. This lean method encourages workers to improve their working conditions and helps them to learn to reduce waste, unplanned downtime, and in-process inventory.
A typical 5S implementation would result in significant reductions in the square footage of space needed for existing operations. It also would result in the organization of tools and materials into labeled and color coded storage locations, as well as “kits” that contain just what is needed to perform a task.

The 5S methodology is a simple and universal approach that works in companies all over the world. It is essentially a support to such other manufacturing improvements as just-in-time (JIT) production, cellular manufacturing, total quality management (TQM), or Six Sigma initiatives, and is also a great contributor to making the workplace a better place to spend time.

Benefits to the company from using the 5S methodology include raising quality, lowering costs, promoting safety, building customer confidence, increasing factory uptime, and lowering repair costs.

Our New Addition

Our newest blogger is David Seifrid, a Lean expert with eight years experience in EMS.

Dave currently is manager of planning and customer support at The Morey Corp., the Chicago-based EMS company that specializes in telematics and heavy industrial engineering and manufacturing. He is also a University of Illinois alum, which makes him a first-class guy in my book (go Illini!).

We’re excited about Dave’s joining our gang, which includes Ron Lasky, Duane Benson, Brian O’Leary, and of course, me.

Read his first post here.

Thoughts on Lean

Six Sigma has been with us for about 25 years and while embraced by many is not without controversy.  Lean, however, has few critics.

The essence of Lean is:

Lean manufacturing or lean production, often known simply as “Lean,” is a production practice that considers the expenditure of resources for any goal other than the creation of value for the end customer to be wasteful, and thus a target for elimination. Working from the perspective of the customer who consumes a product or service, “value” is defined as any action or process that a customer would be willing to pay for. Basically, lean is centered around creating more value with less work.”

I just returned from IPC’s first Lean Sigma Conference.  It was my privilege to be one of the folks who helped IPC’s Dave Torp in organizing this event.  I attended all the workshops and sessions at the conference.  To say that it was inspirational was an understatement.  The presenters mostly were people who have implemented Lean with considerable success.  They were passionate about its success and promise.  Many of the presenters were from companies that have not only weathered the economic strong, but are prospering.  One company has doubled in size in the past 18 months — to 400 or so — at the expense of a competitor that went out of business because they could not compete with a Lean company.

An interesting aspect of Lean is that almost all the companies practicing it, require their suppliers to be lean organizations, too.  The reason: Lean works.

I see Lean as a significant trend, embraced by management and workers alike.  If you are not Lean now, you must be, and soon!


Dr. Ron