The Utility of a 5S

One of the Kaizen (improvement) events that is nearing completion is our 5S of two large storage closest that the dinner services here at Wadsworth are using. Throughout the whole process, the effectiveness of a 5S has really hit home with me. The initial state began with both storage closets being cluttered, with a combination of unneeded junk and items the dinner services would need. Now as the process nears completion one closest is completely empty, allowing other offices to store items there. Furthermore, only necessary items are now stored, and their storage spaces contain labels to prevent future disorders. As far as measurable effects go that is a 50% reduction in the total amount of space. Also, it seems clear that items will take less time to store and retrieve, though there is not enough data to definitively claim this as of yet.

The target state established at the beginning of the Kaizen.

To achieve these results, we followed the process that every other 5S follows as well. Each of the “S”s in the 5S is another step of the process. The five different “S”s are sort, set, shine, standardize, and sustain, with most 5Ss following that order.

The sorting step entails categorizing each item or cluster of items by importance (for our 5S we simply assigned items colored stickers). Then,  useless items can be re-purposed, or discarded.

The next step is the set step. In this step, the position of each item or cluster of items is determined through careful planning to ensure an organized area. Then, these items are put into their rightful place.

Following this is the shine step. This step is the continual process of keeping the area clean. This step is critical to sustaining the results of the previous two steps.

After this is the standardize step. A standard is created so, the current organization is not modified. This standard is recorded to allow future employees to be able to keep the area organized without being part of the improvement event themselves.

The last step is sustain. This step entails having a formal system to ensure that each previous part of the 5S is not changed over time. Typically, this is done by setting up periodic audits to determine if there are any issues with the execution of the 5S.

Overall, a 5S is a very effective workplace tool that, when followed, has proven to improve organization in the workplace.


2 comments on “The Utility of a 5S”

  • Theresa Coleman-Kaiser
    October 8, 2019 at 6:23 AM

    You did a great job explaining the five steps, the S’s, in 5S thinking. What is your hypothesis on the likelihood of sustaining the improvement. I have found “sustain” to be the hardest step. What countermeasures did the team come up with to ensure no backsliding and entropy?

  • Theresa Coleman-Kaiser
    October 8, 2019 at 6:25 AM

    I like how you quantified the improvement, showing a 50% decrease in sq. ft. How can this be quantified in dollars? I’m thinking that by using the freed up space for other purposed the University avoided the cost of renting storage space. You could put a number to that! We are often asked about the financial impact of improvement work. I like it when we can demonstrate impact from a variety of perspectives, including dollars.

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