In today’s competitive market, it is essential for manufacturers to be proactive about standing out, not only to their clients but to their potential employees as well. The modern-day manufacturer faces the challenge of appealing to a smaller pool of highly-skilled workers in order to succeed. The way in which a given manufacturer operates makes a huge difference when it comes to hiring viable candidates, cutting costs, and improving productivity.

This is where the lean manufacturing model comes into play. At its core, lean manufacturing is about eliminating waste and streamlining processes. Not only can this turn a business into a well-oiled machine, but it ensures that each component (or employee) is treated with equal importance. In the end, this can ensure that a business is highly efficient, that employees are engaged, and that profits are high.

There are many tools and systems within the lean manufacturing ethos that businesses use to ensure they’re following the method’s most important principles. One such tool is referred to as “5S.” It may sound like an older version of the iPhone, but it’s actually a very simple and helpful system that can make the fundamentals of lean manufacturing even clearer to both business owners and employees.

What Is 5S?

This system involves five terms that can help businesses to organize their workplace operations. While the original concept involves five Japanese words, those terms have been translated into English counterparts that can inspire you to keep your workplace clean and tidy. These words are:

  • Seiri (Sort) - remove unnecessary items from the workplace
  • Seiton (Straighten or Set in Order) - organize items to optimize efficient flow
  • Seiso (Shine or Sweep) - clean up the workplace to identify problems and share responsibility in maintaining a tidy environment
  • Seiketsu (Standardize) - implement efficient processes (such as lists, labels, and color coding) to ensure consistency throughout the organization and to promote good work habits
  • Shitsuke (Sustain) - develop and maintain organizational behaviors needed to reach long-term goals

What Are The Benefits of 5S?

When used correctly, 5S principles can guide businesses through the process of cleaning and organizing the workplace to ensure peak efficiency, reduce waste, minimize costs, and improve employee commitment.

One of the most important concepts highlighted in the lean manufacturing model is the idea of waste reduction. If you are able to eliminate waste, you will maximize your productivity. Getting rid of extraneous items can allow for more efficient processes to be developed by clearing out clutter and making the necessary tools more prominent. When you’re able to reduce waste, you’ll be able to see, think, and move more clearly and concisely. Hence, your business will be more efficient.

Another key benefit of 5S is cost reduction. This goes hand-in-hand with the elimination of waste, as you’ll be able to free up both time and space for more essential components of your business. From a physical standpoint, that may mean you won’t have to pay as high a rental fee, or you may be able to reduce the costs associated with cleaning, heating and cooling, maintenance, and more. And because you’ll eliminate clutter, you’ll be in a better position to spot defects that need to be addressed far earlier. This can reduce the costs of repairs and replacement, as well as eliminate potential downtime in your operations.

There are other advantages to using the 5S system. One is improved workplace safety, which should matter immensely to business owners. A commitment to cleanliness and clutter reduction, as well as to standardized processes, can reduce the presence of safety hazards to employees and customers. This can allow you to zero in on unsafe practices, reduce the potential for injury, and improve your ability to predict unhealthy situations within the workplace. Not only can this allow you to save time and money while increasing productivity, but it also will instill good faith in your employees.

Speaking of boosting employee morale, the 5S system is an excellent way to accomplish this bigger goal. Because 5S requires each employee to be accountable for keeping the workplace organized and running smoothly, it can inherently improve employee investment. They’ll become more committed to their daily duties and to the company as a whole, which can be highly beneficial to the workplace culture. This also can offset the costs associated with employee absences and turnover. Essentially, a happy employee is a loyal employee—a win/win for both businesses and workers.

If you want your manufacturing business to become a leader in your industry, these lean manufacturing principles can allow you to take your operations to the next level. Employees who are committed to the ideas outlined in the 5S system can have a noticeable effect on the success of companies that  utilize a commitment to streamlined organization.