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5S Practical Tips: How to Apply and Get the Best From 5S

Lean Manufacturing Tools and Techniques


5S Application on the Ground: Small production business, real world practical examples


5S - Senior Management and Planning

Obtain Senior Management backing for 5S. Ensure they understand what it is and how it has the benefit to dramatically improve manufacturing operations. Demonstrate you are ready to run with this – all you need is explicit approval. Senior Managers should show they are serious about 5S by getting involved in a number of activities. It is a great way to connect with employees, raise moral and find out what the issues are on the shop floor. 5S ideally should be used as part of a wider lean programme. 5S and lean should be aligned to broader objectives, typically around efficiently, staff moral and adoption of best practice.

5S – Training and Coaching

5S should be pioneered by a champion or better still a team. Investing in some training for a small number of employees will pay back dividends, as it ensures the technique is applied correctly. In addition, the opportunity to network and see other examples of successful 5S implementation is invaluable. If possible organise visits or at least see case studies of examples where 5S has been successfully implemented. ‘Before and after’ images powerfully illustrate key points.

Once the ‘trainers have been trained’ role the training out to production teams. Explain the principles and how 5S can be practically applied. Standardise training so communication is consistent. Use examples to ensure the message sinks in. Make it clear the initiative has senior management backing. Emphasise the benefits for the business, the team and the individual. Less obvious advantages include greater variety in peoples’ day-to-day activities, recognition for their endeavours, less frustration as employees can find what they need when they need it, as well as a cleaner work environment.

It is important employees understand and are clear why they are undertaking 5S activities.

5S – Integration and Rollout

Even though 5S is a tool, aim to integrate 5S thinking into your day-to-day activities, rather than something you apply at set times. So in a similar way to Health and Safety (H&S) or Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP), be aware of 5S and incorporate it into everyday tasks.

Consider how you are going to practically role 5S out. Think about pilot events for a given location or process, where everybody consciously weighs up the application of each of the 5S’s and gets involved in practical tasks like red tagging. Get ideas from employees working in that area. Consider setting targets for a given location; what improvements do you expect to see by given dates? Revisit and review these with the team. Get visual information displayed in a work area – setting out standards, expected behaviours and progress against targets. After reviews, celebrate achievements with employees.

What are you going to do to really embed 5S within your business? Well there are a number of ways. However, as stated before, it is important employees understand why they are undertaking 5S and how it links into greater business objectives. Include 5S activities in employee job descriptions and in objectives for performance management appraisals. Incorporate 5S in reviews and audits. Include 5S in standards and work instructions, as well as on noticeboards and displays.

Get employees of all levels involved, particularly those working in teams. Set out expectations so standards are clear. Get people trained so they understand, are conscious and are aware. Use 5S examples in their regular working environment. To really embed 5S and make it stick, use the technique to solve a problem or make improvements in a specific area.

The biggest change is a cultural one. Aim for employees to fully understand and believe in 5S. It should influence the way people behave, as well as how they see the work environment. 5S should open staff eyes to improvements and the way things are done – in short, how employees go about their everyday jobs. Fully integrating 5S involves behavioural and process changes.

5S – Continuously Improving

5S, like other aspects of lean manufacturing, does not simply stop after an initiative or exercise. Instead continuously aim to improve. 5S activities should target improvements in different parts of the business. Work areas should be revisited to ensure the gains are being upheld and built on. Reviews and audits should focus on the 5S’s. As mentioned before, build them into performance management appraisals and team meetings.

Be innovative and find ways of building 5S into future improvement activities Use 5S trained teams to find ways to improve. Consider 5S competitions between teams or rewards for greatest 5S improvements. Also think about better standards and targets focusing on 5S. Build on 5S achievements until they become a habit among employees. But don’t stop there, instead aim to continually improve and realise the benefits your efforts deserve, to really transform where you work.

5S Practical Tips: Great real world examples and practical implementation suggestions

5S & Visual Management by Operational Excellence Consulting from OPERATIONAL EXCELLENCE CONSULTING

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