Introduction to 5s in Six Sigma
When TOYOTA introduced lean manufacturing, nobody ever imagined what strategic impact it will have on the manufacturing industry. Sophistication in any process is characterized by organization and cleanliness. Waste reduction is hence a vital aspect of well-functioning manufacturing processes. The typical work environment is such that one can’t behave in a haphazard manner. It is this need that necessitates one to be aware of the 5s in Six Sigma.
Six Sigma adopts a critical approach towards identifying and eliminating defects in products, processes, and services. Even though there is a difference between Six Sigma and 5s, both can be implemented in continuation to enhance efficiency. While Six Sigma is more of a data-driven analytical approach, 5s can be considered to be the more practical and usable approach when we talk about the improvement of processes/ products/ error detection.
What is 5s in Six Sigma?
5s is basically a concept that had originated in industrial housekeeping in the country of Japan, which now has become an organizational philosophy for continuous improvement. It is focused on daily work improvement while engaging in frontline process teams. The words that represent 5s are originally Japanese words, and surprisingly, when translated into English, they also start with the letter ‘s’. What is of importance is the sequence in which these words are understood. This sequence, if not followed, may result in solutions which are not optimal.
What are the 5S?
5S is the basis of all improvements and the key component of a visual workplace. Let us see what the 5s are.
1. Seiri or Sort
Different type of objects needs to be sorted and kept in order. This order can be based on their size or any other parameter. Based on the industry you are working in, ‘objects’ can be used ambiguously or interchangeably. For example, if you are into logistics and shipment, you can apply this to separating goods from courier service; if you are a fashion influencer, you can sort different types of garments and fabrics and then the accessories, if you are a programmer, you know which computer programming language to use for which application.
2. Seiton or Sort in Order
The process of setting and organizing objects in order at the workplace is Seiton. It revolves around the philosophy that there is a place for everything; everything has a place. This again could be applied to various industry domains, depending on what your current industry is.
3. Seiso or Shine
In this step, one makes sure that all their tools and objects are looking clean, neat and all set to be ready to use with very minimalistic change. For example, if you are constructing a food stall on the road, you should be maintaining clean tables and chairs outside your outlet to have done ‘shine’. If you are working on your old android phone, you may choose to delete unwanted documents, pictures, and files, thereby cleaning up space or the file system.
4. Seiketsu or Standardize
Now, if there is a lot of functionality that has been duplicated at different places, you can put them together into one thing. Instead of having five different warehouses to maintain your inventory, you can have just one centralized system of a warehouse. This would save you a lot of cost in terms of inventory maintenance and delivery of goods and assets. Instead of having four or five different salary structures for your factory workers having the same amount of experience, you may think of having only one uniform salary structure for all the workers with the same skills and experience. Instead of using three different analytical tools that analyze your business’s demands and supply needs, you may choose to rely on one software that would cover all your needs and generate a report.
5. Shitsuke or Sustain
This stage ensures that things are put and kept at the right places, again sorted as that is how it should be, in the best condition, maintaining standardization to the fullest. 5s is effectively beneficial in all industries and especially in offices. It could be used to dump waste in various systems and improve processes by quick improvement workshops, also called as Kaizens; (simply means “make better” in Japanese).
Some Important Pointers
- It requires extensive use of visual communication. Labels, colors, tapes, and all other things providing instant identification are of utmost importance. They make the application much simpler and useful.
- Since process improvement largely focuses on local optimization, a clear division of 5S efforts based on regions is extremely important.
- Waste management is a process that should not be just restricted to manufacturing. It is equally important to adopt 5S for office areas with equal stress. Minute things like keeping meeting rooms 5S may help in faster decision making.
- 5S is an activity where monitoring and management are extremely important parts. Management is hence needed to be enthusiastic about the changes 5S is proposing.
5S in Six Sigma, when exercised carefully, can yield manifold benefits. 5S essentially focuses on visual order, cleanliness, organization, and standardization. Organizing the work environment and reducing waste and non-value activities boosts quality efficiency and safety. Well planned and efficient workplace usually motivates employees to work extra hard. It’s a team-building activity, and everybody across different functions should participate in it for the success of the event. Also, it is not a one-time activity but a continual process. The result of all of this can be improved services, security, profitability, and safety.
5S is not an activity which you should do only when there is somebody like the chairman visiting your work site. It is a process that is continuous and ongoing. This heavy investment in terms of manpower, money and time, makes it difficult for any company to adopt the 5S approach. It hence becomes necessary for all companies to weigh the pros and cons before giving any final go-ahead to any of new strategic changes. Many great companies have demonstrated the varied use of this technology FORD, TOYOTA is amongst the top few across the globe. New companies should try and analyze the mistakes these companies did and learn what they have got from them.
This has been a guide to What is 5s in Six Sigma? Here we discussed the concepts, definition, important pointers and what is 5s in Six Sigma. You can also go through our other suggested articles to learn more –