5S Visual Management: Lean Manufacturing Methods Your Business Needs

As a new year begins, manufacturing companies are still facing major issues caused by the pandemic. Labor shortages are just one of the many challenges our industry faces. Each day, our certified and expert consultants help clients in Southeastern Pennsylvania and across the nation deal with these challenges through Continuous Improvement initiatives like Lean Manufacturing principles. These principles are designed to eliminate waste, improve efficiencies, and increase your bottom line with the workforce you already have on hand. Let’s explore one of the principles of Lean – 5S Visual Management.

What is 5S?

The 5S system is one of the key methods used in Lean Manufacturing that focuses on your people. Derived from Kaizen philosophy, 5S is designed to prevent errors and defects before they begin by laying the groundwork for improvement. It is one of the best ways to help your company become more productive and adapt to having a smaller staff through workplace organization and standardization.

5S improves employee communication and shop floor discipline while creating a safe and organized working environment. The system can solve problems with workplace efficiency, like when a disorganized workplace interrupts productivity, or when poor placement of materials on the shop floor means employees have to spend valuable time looking for tools or materials. Implementing 5S in your workplace means your employees will be more productive and can meet the demands of their workload.

The 5 “S”s stand for the 5 pillars of organization and standardization:

  1. Sort: Sorting out any clutter can make more space and allow you to reorganize for better efficiency.
  2. Set in Order: Organize the shop floor so that employees never have to search for materials they need for their tasks. A properly laid out shop floor can save valuable time (and money) in the production process.
  3. Shine: Clean everything thoroughly to avoid contamination and grime.
  4. Standardize: Make everything in the process consistent so the first 3 steps can be maintained and standardized.
  5. Sustain: Once you’ve completed a 5S process, it’s essential to keep it up. 5S can only help you remain efficient if you make a commitment to maintaining the system and set aside the time to keep the shop floor clean and organized.
  6. Safety: There’s also a sixth, bonus pillar: safety. It’s always important to maintain a safe environment for employees, and keeping the shop floor clean and organized can help.

How 5S Can Streamline Your Workplace

Implementing 5S methodology in your workplace can make your employees more productive so your company can get more done without onboarding new staff. 5S can reduce operating costs; improve employee communication, engagement, and satisfaction; and increase productivity by 20-40%. This has been proven in the work our DVIRC experts have succeeded  with our clients.

The DVIRC team has used 5S to improve efficiency with many clients, including Ehmke Manufacturing. While working with Ehmke, the DVIRC team used 5S to help streamline Ehmke’s workspace.

The team first observed the manufacturing process on the shop floor to understand how materials flowed and where there was waste in the process. “One of the most obvious areas of waste is when someone is walking around,”  according to Alan Shell, DVIRC’s Director of Continuous Improvement.Because walking is always a non-value-added task, the team reduced the amount of time employees spent walking to get materials by placing necessary items closer to employees, Shell said.

After observing the current process, the DVIRC team used 5S to systematically sort, clean, and organize all items and materials. Overall, 5S processes led to a 900 square-foot increase in workable space to make room for new web cutting machinery and helped Ehmke avoid $50,000-$60,000 in lost costs. After working with DVIRC, Ehmke also experienced a 42% sales growth, without needing to increase employee headcount.

Whether you are looking to begin your continuous improvement journey, or looking for help refining your current process, our team at DVIRC can help. Our experts will provide the knowledge and expertise you need based on your organization’s specific goals. Contact us today and let’s have a conversation about how we can help.