Regardless of your company’s business segment, having a more organized and productive work environment improves an organization’s ambiance and way of working, ensuring that activities are carried out more quickly. An organized, clean and standardized environment is likely to improve a company’s results. That is why so many companies today apply the famous 5S program to achieve gains in productivity, agility and visibility in the work environment.
But how do you implement the program in your company? How do you keep it up and running? What are the five senses? We will answer these and other questions below.
The origins of the 5S Program
The 5S program started in the 1970s at the Toyota Motor Company in Japan. At the time, leaders were looking for ways to reduce manufacturing waste and inefficiency. 5S was identified as a system that could make ‘Just in Time’ manufacturing possible. They established five pillars around the central concept of a visual workplace, which, over time, became the popular 5S methodology as we know it today.
What is the goal of 5S?
The goal of the 5S program is to make the workplace better by standardizing processes and improving efficiency, employee satisfaction and productivity in an organization.
The program helps to create a culture of discipline to identify problems and create opportunities for improvement.
The initiative should come from above!
Implementing the 5S program involves more than just the initiative of a single individual or department. It requires greater strength- especially the strength of senior management! The change has to be cultural and occur across the company, and not simply in the operational area or in the provision of services. The involvement and participation of top management in the implementation and maintenance of the program is of the utmost importance, and they should pass this importance on to managers, who then inspire and train the people under them.
Training, training and more training!
It is essential that all company employees are trained in the use of the 5S tool. It is important that the training includes data on how much the company loses by not implementing the program, and how much it could earn with it. It is also important to share the names of large companies that have applied the program and the results they have achieved due to implementing 5S. Benchmarking can be carried out with other companies to obtain this data.
For the program to be effective, it is essential that there is constant management, if possible daily, with respect to the 5 senses. Thus, it is important to determine a person or team to be responsible, who can verify, at regular intervals, that the environment is clean and organized, with tools and supplies stored in their proper places, as determined in the visual standard or template. It is also important to have a verification checklist form.
Where to begin?
Now that we know about the origins and goals of 5S, and have a trained team and senior management engaged, how do we start the program? In what follows, we’ll explain each of the 5 Senses and address, in more detail, the steps your organization can follow to start implementing this tool.
1. Step 1 – Seiri (sense of use)
This first step involves separating what you use from what you don’t use. What you don’t use can get in the way and take up space and, today, in any organization, space is money. Start simple and ask: how is your computer desktop? Is it well organized, with only the documents and programs you use frequently?- or is it full of icons that are no longer used, or never have been?
Now let’s go further. Let’s look at your work environment. Develop criteria for getting rid of unnecessary things and, with your colleagues, identify used and unused items on a daily basis. TIP: always take “before” pictures. People’s reactions to watching before and after pictures are fantastic!
If possible, determine a place in your company for disposal, donation or even for selling unused items. Define a “D-day” on which the entire company will mobilize to carry out the program.
2. Step 2 – Seiton (sense of organization)
For all the things that were determined “necessary,” this is the time to organize them by separation. Taking into account your work flow, organize your things and decide where to put them.
- If the item is used very often, keep it close to you or close to where you use it.
- If the item is used a little less frequently- for example, a document that you normally consult once a week- keep it in a cabinet, but one that is nearby so you can access it quickly.
- For items that you don’t use very often, they can be stored in cabinets, further away, without the need for immediate and quick access.
You can use the 5-Whys methodology to help decide where each item belongs.
3. Step 3 – Seiso (sense of cleanliness)
This is the time for cleaning. A messy environment prevents you from finding opportunities for improvement. So keep your work environment clean and visible to find anomalies. Adopt cleaning as a daily activity and as part of the inspection. Clean your workplace before starting work and after ending it.
4. Step 4 – Seiketsu (sense of standardization)
This step is all about creating visual controls and guidelines to keep the workplace organized, orderly and clean. Before starting this phase, make sure that all of the previous steps have been performed correctly. Create procedures and forms to regularly assess the status of the first three Ss.
Generally, each employee is assigned a specific role that contributes to cleaning the work environment. Scheduled routines are defined with fixed intervals, such as weekly, biweekly or monthly, and supervisors are responsible for monitoring whether or not these tasks are being performed.
5. Step 5 – Shitsuke (sense of self-discipline)
This step involves discipline to ensure that all employees follow the standards of the 5S program and practice the first four Senses willingly and spontaneously as a way of life. In this way, 5S becomes an important tool in the organization’s culture.
Each of the senses should have an auditing process associated with it to verify that each of the steps that have been implemented is being maintained.
Recognition is essential for maintaining results. When it comes to collaborators who really care about the maintenance of the program, they deserve some kind of special recognition, compared to those who do not give it the same value. In this way, dedication can be fostered and cultivated in the company. This recognition can be awarded in several ways, such as prizes or additional motivations. Define a monthly management of results with indicators so top management can evaluate the results obtained during the period. The idea is to reward teams, shifts or areas, and not just individual employees. This way, you also promote teamwork in your company.
Prizes can be symbolic objects such as trophies or medals. Other forms of recognition could be small decorative gifts, or even cinema, restaurant or amusement park vouchers. In offices, signs or plaques can be awarded to place on desks to recognize employees. For factory employees, stickers, insignia or badges can be awarded to put on helmets or uniforms to display these awards.