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The Five S’s (5S) Of Lean. Think of a weekend when you invited your friends over for dinner, and on their special request, you are making Italian pasta for them. You have cooked pasta multiple times before, and you know which ingredients are required for it to have just the right taste (the freshly ground black pepper!).
You decided to start at 08:00 PM and hence invited them over at 9:00. (It always takes 55 minutes of cooking time, right? Who knows it better than you do?). You get inside your kitchen at 07:50 PM, and it is then that you experience the horror! The place is a mess. The cooking pan and the dishes are not washed, the refrigerator broke down last night because of which the vegetables went bad and while looking through your spices, you realized that black pepper was missing!
You remember that you had bought a packet of it just two days ago, but you cannot find it now. You tell yourself, ‘What’s the big deal, anyway. I’ll go and buy it- it’ll take me some time to fix the kitchen, and the pasta will be ready by 09:30-09:45. My friends are coming as guests after all, and can cope with some delay, right?’
Does this situation sound familiar to you? Don’t we all get surprised when we realize that one of the things we need to complete a task is missing right when we are going to start doing it? In the above example, you might think that you only lost an hour or went through some inconvenience, but for mega factories such as Toyota, Tesla, Ford, Boeing, etc. that build cars, airplanes, industrial equipment, and other complicated instruments, a delay of 5 minutes can cost them thousands of dollars. The takt time (time taken to build a truck from metal processing to final roll out) of a 15 Ton-180 Horsepower truck at Tata Motors Pune plant is just about four and a half minutes.
This means that if for any reason, one operation among the many hundreds of operations in the plant goes down for 5 minutes, the company loses a truck! Crazy, right? On average, the total number of components assembled in a medium-sized commercial truck is 6,000, and if any one of the components is not available on the assembly line on a production day, the truck cannot be built.
This was a major problem among most automobile manufacturers in the post-war era of the 50s, and a new methodology of 5S lean six sigma originated in Japan and was first implemented by the Toyota Motor Corporation on their assembly line to tackle it. It changed the work culture of the company drastically and left the other automobile manufacturers wondering how Toyota was able to build so many products so quickly and at such a high-quality level.
In no time, the 5S lean six sigma was adopted by all the manufacturers in the world and became a key prospect for the efficiency and quality enhancement of their products. 5S training became an integral part of these organizations’ training programs that they give to their young recruits, and 5S certification, in today’s world, is among the most sought for certifications among aspirants looking to work for any automobile company.
But what exactly is the 5S lean six sigma concept, and how does it help in reducing waste, increasing productivity, and enhancing the quality of the product? Is it only limited to the manufacturing industry, or does it find application in other services and related industries as well?
5S six sigma refers to five Japanese terms used to implement a way of organizing and managing workspace and workflow in any process. They are:
1. Seiri (Sort): The first pillar in 5S six sigma is to sort and systematically discard items that are not needed at the workplace. Such activity will make it more convenient to find the items that are regularly needed and will get rid of clutter, unnecessary tools, and unused supplies. It will also free up more floor area, which can be used later on for installing more workstations.
2. Seiton (Set in order): The next step in 5S six sigma after Seiri has been implemented is to set the necessary items in clean and systematic order. There should be a dedicated place for each of these tools so that anyone can instantly find them, use them and then place them back. These tools should be labeled and should be easy to access- especially the ones which are more frequently used as compared to the others. This helps in creating a more efficient, ergonomic, and safer workplace. For example, if an operator needs a power drill to drill holes in 300 workpieces a day and also needs a file to remove the bur from one workpiece in every 50 workpieces he drills, then the power drill should be kept closer to him than the file. The tools should also be placed according to the workflow to minimize unnecessary movement and transportation time.
3. Seiso (Shine): Once Seiri and Seiton have been implemented, the next pillar is Seiso or Shine. This step emphasizes keeping the workplace clean, free of dirt, dust, or debris, and well lighted. The benefit of this stage is it is easier to find defects in a clean, well-lit room, and machines that are clean and maintained are less likely to break down. It also promotes morale and attention to detail among the team members, which in turn brings higher quality.
4. Seiketsu (Standardize): The fourth step in 5S six sigma is Seitsuke or standardize. It is a way to ensure that the above three steps are followed daily basis and the team has a habit of always doing the right thing in the right way. The team should also make work instruction sheets or standard operating procedures to ensure that Seiketsu is well understood and implemented. The benefits of standardizing are that it becomes easier to train a new employee, and there is very less room for error.
5. Shitsuke (Sustain): Finally, Shitsuke is all about ingraining the concept of 5S lean six sigma in day-to-day activities. The team members must make time to meet and make everyone aware of the benefits of 5S, give credits wherever due periodically evaluate the 5S activities.
In the past four decades, the concept of 5S has evolved and found its application not only in the manufacturing industry but also in the service industry, hospitality business, and consultation. (Implementing 5S Methodology: The First Step Toward Workplace Efficiency [Updated] (simplilearn.com) ) The tech giants are hiring 5S lean six sigma experts to evaluate their businesses and implement this methodology for leaner and more profitable operations. There are even firms that provide 5S training in Mumbai and across India. One should go for it because it is a skill once learned, can give recurring benefits.
ARROWHEAD is a consulting services firm with emphasis on reducing all LEAN wastes and improving consistency through Six-Sigma concepts.
By reducing Lean waste, you can remove all non-value added activities thereby improving speed of reaching your customer at better margin and by improving consistency you are able to meet customer demand in terms of quality expected.
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