What is the 5S method?

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A disorganized and untidy workplace is often a sign that a business isn’t as productive as it could be. And while cleaning up work areas is not always easy. It is often one of the first things that needs to be done to boost productivity.

To do efficient, high-quality work, you need to be in a clean, safe environment, with easily accessible tools. This enables workers to concentrate on the task at hand rather than getting sidetracked on organizational issues, whether it be in a factory, office or a store.

One of the most popular methods used to create create lean, functional work environments is the renowned Japanese management philosophy known as 5S. As the name implies, 5S consists of five practices; Sort, Straighten, Shine, Standardize and Sustain. (The Japanese equivalents are Seiri, Seiton, Seiso, Seiketsu and Shitsuke).

The 5S consists of 5 practices:

1. Sort

Companies that don’t properly classify their materials and tools suffer enormous productivity losses. Businesses can use the 5S method to sort the things they use daily, monthly and yearly, and to keep handy only what is immediately needed. The rest should be labeled and relocated.

2. Straighten

Objects should be stored in a functional way even if this means investing in new organizers, shelving or cabinets. Visual aids such as labels, or painted outlines, should also be used to show staff where particular items should be placed.

3. Shine

A clean work environment is an effective one. Dirt, waste and scrap should be systematically eliminated, using daily, weekly, monthly and annual cleaning schedules.

4. Standardize

Teams should get together periodically to establish rules and define work standards ranging from the type and description of materials and tools used, to how information is communicated among group members.

5. Sustain

Once key 5S elements have been introduced, an internal audit system should be implemented to ensure that work processes function properly and are continued. Inspections should be conducted regularly and feedback regarding suggested process improvements should be passed along to the appropriate parties.

Clean-up your digital spaces

One major challenge that companies face is that not all messes are visible; particularly those related to information and communications technology systems. In today’s highly automated workflows, an office can easily have a surface “spic and span” look, yet mask major system disorder.

If staff members can’t find their data files, computer tools aren’t managed and kept up to date and online functionality is sub-standard, then productivity will suffer. This is in part why implementing the 5S method in your physical and digital workspaces is often the foundation many organizations use to launch their operational efficiency journey.