5S Lean Principles | Workplace organisation for maximum productivity

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Examples of 5S Lean Principles

5S Workplace Organisation

5S remains one of the core foundational tools and perhaps one of the most popular tools in the lean toolbox.

The reasons why is that the 5S Lean Principles are easy to teach, the concepts are easily grasped, it’s visual and tends to have a cultural impact and it while looking fairly easy it also has a direct impact both on quality and productivity as well. Therefore, its a very natural place where many begin.

However, it’s important to understand the 5S Lean methodology takes time and it’s a journey that teams will need to go on to achieve the full benefits and the results.

“A place for everything and everything in it’s place” – Unknown

5S Lean Principles - An Introduction Video

5S is a discipline. It’s a daily discipline that impacts much more than just the workplace organisation.

5S Lean Methodology

The principles behind the 5S Lean methodology create workspaces which are designed to create value. It is not simply about having a “spring clean” but how do we design our space for optimal productivity, focus and creativity.

The 5S Lean Principles are:

Sort – to separate the necessary from the unnecessary

Set – designate a place for all necessary items

Shine – Keep the workplace clean and tidy to surface problems

Standardise – manage and maintain performance

Sustain – implement standards for optimal conditions

(Safety – of our people – not all companies refer to 6S)

The real objective of a 5S program must be to reduce waste, reduce variation and to improve productivity. Companies lose millions of dollars of productivity through people simply looking for files on their SharePoint or hunting for an email in the monstrosity that workplace email culture has become.

But for employees to be productive and create value, they need space to focus and do the job at hand. In the manufacturing environment, this might mean having the exact tools required within arm’s length. In a creative environment, it might be space away from email notification’s to concentrate for an extended period. In our virtual home offices today, it might be space that is free from visual distraction and unnecessary noises.

5S Lean methodology

Our workspace organisation and our workspace design need to create the right well-organised environment where everyone knows where everything is and everything that is needed to help us create value has a designated space.

“As more of us work from home, we must spend time creating the right environment to create value.” – Reagan Pannell

Along with “morning meetings”, 5S is part of the daily routines that can unleash change within organisations. The daily routine of sustaining a 5s work environment requires conscious daily focus and long term discipline at an individual and team level.

To give just one example of this, we had been working with one team for around 2 months and slowly we had been gaining traction to improve productivity – but it was slower than we expected. After discussing workplace organisation, the team (not us) decided they wanted to gut the office environment, apply a new layer of paint and set up the workspace from scratch.

The team got permission, came in on the weekend and gutted the place. On the following Monday, the workspace was spotless with people assigned each day to keep it that way and raise any issues found. But over the following two weeks, actions we had assigned were also completed,  accountability suddenly improved and the “change mindset” was unleashed. (You can join our Unleashing Change” Webinar here).

5S is a powerful way to create cultural change but first, everyone must understand the 5S Lean methodology and the key principles. (Take one of our Lean Courses to expand your knowledge of 5S and other lean tools.)

The Classic 5S:

Along with the more western translations of the 5S, the classic 5S from Toyota are, Seiri, Seiton, Seisa, Seiketsu, Shitsuke.

As is often the case, when these terms are translated, they lose some of the wider significance with the Japanese culture. So always keep a broad understanding of these terms. Each term is always focused on value creation, identify wastes and seeing new opportunities for improvement.

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Marie Kondo: The Life-Changing Magic if Tidying Up

Marie Kondo became famous in Japan in the 2010s by becoming a home consultant helping people organise their homes to deliver “joy”. While sustainment may be more down to the individual who she helps, she applies the first 3S brilliantly in her book: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Worth a read, but be careful if you give it to your partner!

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