Five simple steps to making your company more efficient

Paul Albone
Lean Manufacturing Expert | innovate2succeed
11th December 2017

When was the last time you took a step back and looked at how your company operates, and how much of this your customer actually pays for?

In the day to day running of your business, there are dozens of tiny operations that don’t add value in any way, effectively waste, reducing the efficiency of you company. Do staff double handle products? Is your layout the most effective it could be? Where is all the stock located?

There are systems and tools that can help you to re-evaluate the efficiency of your organisation, all of which will give you an advantage when it comes to reducing costs and improving productivity.

With that in mind, I would like to show you an effective tool, called 5S, which will help you to streamline your company to be more efficient.

What is 5S?

5S is not only about keeping things tidy but also creating a culture of continuous improvement and development. 

Invented in Japan, it stands for five Japanese words that start with the letter 'S': Seiri, Seiton, Seiso, Seiketsu, and Shitsuke.

The equivalent set of 'S' words in English were to adopted preserve the "S" acronym. These are: Sort, Set (in order), Shine, Standardise, and Sustain.  

It provides a structured programme to systematically achieve total organisation, cleanliness, and standardisation in the workplace. 

A well-organised workplace results in a safer, more efficient, and more productive operation. It boosts the morale of the workers, promoting a sense of pride in their work and ownership of their responsibilities.

So how can you utilise 5S to make your business more efficient?   

Seiri = Sort

The first step, seiri, is about throwing away all unwanted, unnecessary, and unrelated materials in the workplace.  

The idea is to ensure that everything left in the workplace is related to work. Even the number of necessary items in the workplace must be kept to its absolute minimum. Because of seiri, simplification of tasks, effective use of space, and careful purchase of items follow.

Seiton = Rearrange and identify

Seiton is all about efficiency, standardisation and first level visual control. 

This step consists of putting everything in an assigned place so that it can be accessed, as well as returned to the same place, quickly and easily.

If everyone has quick access to an item or materials, workflow becomes efficient, and the worker becomes productive.  

The correct place, position, or holder for every tool, item, or material must be chosen carefully in relation to how the work will be performed and who will use them.  

Every single item must be allocated its own place for safekeeping, and each location must be labelled for easy identification of what it's for, making it obvious when it is not there. This drives process flow.

Seiso = Contain

Seiso says that 'everyone is a janitor.' It consists of cleaning up the workplace and giving it a 'shine' and it must be done by everyone in the organisation, from operators to managers. 

Everyone should see the 'workplace' through the eyes of a visitor, always thinking if it is clean enough to make a good impression. 

When you clean something you will see all the defects, like when you wash your car you find all the scratches and small dents. You can then contain any issue you find (leaks, spills, debris, paper etc) and clear it away daily whilst continuing to inspect, ensuring it doesn’t turn into a bigger issue.

The objective here is to be able to see the issues and the waste. It’s this stage where your team are really trained to detect when something is wrong. 

Seiketsu = Fix

This phase is all about fixing the issue you have found.  The solution to the problem should be the root cause so it no longer is an issue and cannot become one again. 

Due to the second and third S, you are constantly in a continuous cycle of identifying, containing and fixing any issues, creating a culture of continuous improvement. 

Shitsuke = Discipline

This is maintaining order and continuing to practice the first four tasks. Shitsuke is eliminating bad habits and constantly practising good ones, without having to be reminded by management.

This is really important because we often don’t commit to, or have the discipline for, maintaining new standards or a new way of working.  

This is why staff are often heard saying “but I have always done it this way” and why returning back to old habits is often the norm.  Hence why this 5th S is required. 

When all is said and done, it is what you do that counts. Take an action, get a result. By following 5S, you can streamline your company to be more efficient, reduce costs, increase productivity and gain a competitive advantage.

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