The 5 Pillars
Sort, the first S, focuses on eliminating unnecessary items from the workplace that are not needed for current production operations. An effective visual method to identify these unneeded items is called “red tagging”, which involves evaluating the necessity of each item in a work area and dealing with it appropriately. A red tag is placed on all items that are not important for operations or that are not in the proper location or quantity. Once the red tag items are identified, these items are then moved to a central holding area for subsequent disposal, recycling, or reassignment. Organizations often find that sorting enables them to reclaim valuable floor space and eliminate such things as broken tools, scrap, and excess raw material.
Set in Order
Set In Order focuses on creating efficient and effective storage methods to arrange items so that they are easy to use and to label them so that they are easy to find and put away. Set in Order can only be implemented once the first pillar, Sort, has cleared the work area of unneeded items. Strategies for effective Set In Order include painting floors, affixing labels and placards to designate proper storage locations and methods, outlining work areas and locations, and installing modular shelving and cabinets.
Once the clutter that has been clogging the work areas is eliminated and remaining items are organized, the next step is to thoroughly clean the work area. Daily follow-up cleaning is necessary to sustain this improvement. Working in a clean environment enables workers to notice malfunctions in equipment such as leaks, vibrations, breakages, and misalignments. These changes, if left unattended, could lead to equipment failure and loss of production. Organizations often establish Shine targets, assignments, methods, and tools before beginning the shine pillar.
Once the first three 5S’s have been implemented, the next pillar is to standardize the best practices in the work area. Standardize, the method to maintain the first three pillars, creates a consistent approach with which tasks and procedures are done. The three steps in this process are assigning 5S (Sort, Set in Order, Shine) job responsibilities, integrating 5S duties into regular work duties, and checking on the maintenance of 5S. Some of the tools used in standardizing the 5S procedures are: job cycle charts, visual cues (e.g., signs, placards, display scoreboards), scheduling of “five-minute” 5S periods, and check lists. The second part of Standardize is prevention – preventing accumulation of unneeded items, preventing procedures from breaking down, and preventing equipment and materials from getting dirty.
Sustain, making a habit of properly maintaining correct procedures, is often the most difficult S to implement and achieve. Changing entrenched behaviors can be difficult, and the tendency is often to return to the status quo and the comfort zone of the “old way” of doing things. Sustain focuses on defining a new status quo and standard of work place organization. Without the Sustain pillar the achievements of the other pillars will not last long. Tools for sustaining 5S include signs and posters, newsletters, pocket manuals, team and management check-ins, performance reviews, and department tours. Organizations typically seek to reinforce 5S messages in multiple formats until it becomes “the way things are done.”