You may have heard some of the “buzz words” circulating around lean manufacturing. In fact, an entire industry of consultants have come out of the woodwork to help with your factory inefficiencies – often for a hefty fee.
But what if we were to introduce to you, in simple terms, a trusted method that you can implement on your own? If you own and operate a factory, this method can clue you in on how to improve your processes. If you’re a buyer, the same method can help you with supplier selection. Interested? Read on. We’re about to tell you about the 5S method.
The 5S Method Defined
To begin, let’s discuss some basic information regarding the 5S method. The method was originally developed in Japan – and it comes as no surprise. The ability of Japanese manufacturers to improve plant efficiency is world-renowned. 5S stands for “Sort”, “Straighten”, “Shine”, “Standardize” and “Sustain”. The 5S method is one of many techniques that enable Just-in-Time manufacturing. Carrying out the 5S method will not only improve a factory’s efficiency, it will also help the factory increase its overall quality. So sit back as we take you on a journey through 5S.
The first step of? the 5S method is to sort out all the unnecessary items and materials at a workstation. Items and materials at a workstation will be evaluated to make sure they are essential to the function of this workstation. All unnecessary things will be disposed of in order to prevent accumulation. An example of this this could be seen at a plant that manufacturers garments. After cutting fabric from the raw textile, it’s common for factory workers to let the excess material pile up at the workstation for too long. By removing waste before it accumulates, you can improve process flow and decrease clutter.
Once all the essentials have been sorted out, the next step is to place items properly. For example, a plant that manufactures furniture should arrange for equipment to be placed in order of the workflow. Let’s say that lacquer is applied to wooden components at one workstation and gluing is done at another workstation. In this case, the two workstations should be relatively close together, if not right next to one another. Proper placement of equipment improves workflow so necessary items can be easily selected for use. This is very important for preventing time waste.
This step in the 5S method means keeping a workstation safe and clean. When a station is sorted and straightened, it’s important to clean everything up and make sure all the machinery and equipment are up to standards. This can be as simple as ensuring the paint for screen printing is stored in separate containers and not left to sit out and become a hazard to workers.
Once a workplace is cleaned up, it’s time to standardize this throughout the whole factory. If you’ve improved a workstation that handles injection molding, apply the same principles to painting, packaging and whatever other workstations in use. It is beneficial to both the product buyer and the factories when the overall quality is high and more units can be produced at each workstation.
All efforts will be wasted if the above cannot be sustained. So it’s always important to perform regular audits to make sure everything is being followed and implemented properly. Audit your factory internally, or externally if you are hiring a supplier to manufacture for you.
You can think of the factory as your own workstation. When you’re on an important call and trying to find a pen to take notes, would you prefer a nice clean desk with everything in place, or a messy desk that’s cluttered with paper and files everywhere? The same goes for choosing a supplier. Do you think an organized factory that follows the 5S method is more likely to make a better product at lower cost or a less organized factory that does not benefit from the 5S method?
Take the 5S method to heart and start improving your manufacturing today!