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16 August, 2023

Organization and cleanliness can help manufacturers avoid lost productivity and unplanned downtime. Graphic Products covers the details of 5S for #USAMfgHour.


Look around you. Is your desk a little cluttered? Is there something nearby that is not necessary for your space? A half-eaten muffin, a few piles of paperwork, a wall of sticky notes, and maybe the TV remote somewhere. Now, think about your work as a whole. Do you have unnecessary items in your workspace? What about the warehouse or shop floor? Are some items in the wrong place, unorganized, or not even needed? Having items that are in the wrong place, unorganized, or unnecessary contribute to downtime and waste, and lowers worker efficiency. However, a simple method can improve things dramatically. For this week’s #USAMfgHour chat on Twitter, manufacturers and supporters shared their disorganization confessions and discussed the 5S Method with Graphic Products.

What is 5S in Manufacturing?

Manufacturers might have heard of the 5S method. What is 5S? Whys is it important for businesses? The 5S system is a lean manufacturing tool that improves workplace efficiency and eliminates waste. There are five steps in the system, each starting with the letter S. These steps feed into each other, so the sequence is important. 

  • Sort (seiri 整理) 
  • Set in order (seiton 整頓) 
  • Shine (seiso 清掃) 
  • Standardize (seiketsu 清潔) 
  • Sustain/self-discipline (shitsuke しつけ) 

“Get buy-in from everybody to make it work well,” said Nigel Packer of PelaTis.

“Such a valuable way to look at improving any operation. Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize, Sustain, and we like to add a sixth S, Safety!,” said Mike Womack of NJMEP.org.

“5S provides a systematic framework for organization and cleanliness. It helps facilities avoid lost productivity from delayed work or unplanned downtime,” according to Graphic Products. 

Clearing out unnecessary materials in step 1 (Sort) will provide the space needed to organize the important items in step 2 (Set In Order). Then, once the workspace is de-cluttered and organized, dirt and grime can be removed in step 3 (Shine). These changes to workers’ job duties and work environment should be reflected in updated procedures through step 4 (Standardize). Finally, those new procedures won’t amount to much unless the responsibility is assigned and progress is tracked—as required for step 5 (Sustain). And with responsibility and tracking, workers will continue to apply the steps, returning to step 1.

“Clutter definitely affects productivity. Less is more,” said Ruby Rusine of Social Success Marketing. “I can, *surprise*, think better when there is less stuff on my table or less tabs open. However, some people thrive with clutter around. I live with one here.”

“5S is important for improved efficiency, less wasted space, cleanliness, safety... guess I could go on,” said Rebecca Hart of DSI Dynamatic.

“Increase throughput, decrease processing time and error-proof our work, efficiency, better customer service,” said Shannon of DuraTech Industries.

“To me, this would be a no-brainer but I might be wrong. 

Time management + efficiency = high profits. Organization helps all of those things,” said Nick Rivers of Obsidian Manufacturing.

“I heard we spend 2.5 days searching for misplaced things - emails, files, etc. YIKES!,” said Rusine.

“Has the potential to improve production, lower labor costs, minimize workplace incidents and the list goes on!,” said Snaptron.

What is Needed for 5S Longevity?

There are some helpful tools for 5S lean manufacturing that can make the process easier. These tools include process tools, 5S checklists, and visual communication tools like labeling and floor marking supplies. 

“I already mentioned an office cabinet, but that's just for me,” said Hart. “The rest of our company abides by the 5S system, even though not officially. Our warehouse is very organized and easy to navigate.”

“If you are starting from the beginning do an Audit,” Packer said. “Look at your workspaces and determine how they could be better organized. 5S is a tool to help you move forward. When I worked as a production manager years ago, I introduced ISO 9000, 5S and Kanban. I spent 6 months auditing the production systems and 2 weeks making the changes with the team. They bought into it because they could double their bonus.”

“I find labels to be super helpful,” Rusine said.

#USAMfgHour is a weekly chat on Twitter.5S can be used in any industry. Why do you think it would or wouldn’t work in your workplace? How can your facility get started with 5S? 5S can fail sometimes if there is no worker/top-level buy-in. There also needs to be a commitment to make 5S a long-term success. Be sure to track the details of the cost-savings from 5S. For some businesses, Sustain seems to be the hardest step. Manage 5S strategies to keep direction and focus. 

“There is the word commitment to sustain this,” said Rusine. “This is a great habit to carve because the cue or the motive is right. I need to change my routine to improve on getting my table clutter-free from one day to two days.”

“I think 5S would work well in any industry,” said Sherri of WiscoLift. “Our shop has a hard time with it due to equipment coming in and going out plus being manufactured in virtually the same area.”

“My mom used to say, ‘There's a place for everything and everything goes in a place,’” said Rivers.

About #USAMfgHour

Anyone who champions U.S. manufacturing can join in on a new conversation each week on Twitter using the hashtag #USAMfgHour. The chat starts at 11 a.m. Pacific Standard Time/2 p.m. Eastern. Share positive blog posts, helpful articles, news, important information, accomplishments, events, and more with other manufacturers and supporters from throughout the country.

Are you interested in hosting a #USAMfgHour chat? Contact organizers @CVTPlastics, @DCSCinc, and @SocialSMktg.

Need help? Here’s a free guide to help you get started with 5S, or even help sustain a 5S program that needs a refreshed approach.