5S for Success

August 1, 2009
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5S is widely used as a starting place for continuous improvement efforts.

Not a day passes that we don’t see the impact of the worldwide economic downturn on the manufacturing industry, including the glass and ceramic sectors. As such, manufacturing leadership is challenged not only with producing superior products, but also with cost control and process efficiencies. These days, the elimination of waste in all aspects of the organization is imperative. Common thinking within process manufacturing is that there are three types of waste: defects, over-processing and waiting (lost time).

Lean manufacturing, or the use of lean tools, has long been a hallmark for continuous improvement strategy. According to the 2003 Industry Week/Manufacturing Institute Census of manufacturers, about one-third (36%) of U.S. manufacturers identified lean as their primary improvement strategy. Practitioners, including those who have studied the Toyota (the originator of lean) manufacturing system, frequently highlight benefits such as repetitive order characteristics; just-in-time materials/pull scheduling; short cycle times; quick changeovers; continuous flow; collocated machines, equipment, tools and people; efficient space utilization; a multi-skilled, flexible workforce; waste reduction (in time, materials and other process variables); and high first-pass yields/reductions in defects.

These results can be achieved by the effective use of such lean tools as value stream mapping, error proofing (Poka Yoke), Kaizen (continuous improvement), self-directed work teams, quality system certification, total productive maintenance (TPM) and 5S. Many others are available, but these key tools can help resolve many manufacturing issues, whether in process or discrete manufacturing industries. Though the benefits can be significant, the current reality is that some companies feel cost constrained in making the investment in a full-blown lean strategy.

As a result, the question often is, “Where can we begin to lay a foundation for lean manufacturing in the future?” One good starting point is the use of the 5S concept, which originated in Japan and is widely used in the U.S. as a starting place for continuous improvement efforts. The concept has gained popularity because “5S creates a work environment that is clean, well-organized and efficient. It provides your organization with a rapid, visible achievement while preparing your workforce for other advanced improvement efforts.”1

Figure 1. The philosophy of 5S is built around these five terms.

What is 5S?

A process industry is commonly referred to as a manufacturing process where a chemical change has taken place, and it includes segments such as glass and ceramics, as well as industries associated with the manufacture of chemicals, minerals, coal, metal, and consumables, to name just a few.

The philosophy of 5S is built around the following five terms (see Figure 1):
  • Sort (Japanese translation, Seiri)
  • Set in Order (Seiton)
  • Shine (Seiso)
  • Standardize (Seiketsu)
  • Sustain (Shitsuke)


Sort (Seiri)
Sorting is the first step of 5S. The importance of this concept lies in looking at items (i.e., tools, lubricants, items used for job changes) in the work setting and deciding what is really needed to get the job done efficiently and effectively. If it is essential for the job, it is tagged; if it is not necessary, it should be discarded.

Set in Order (Seiton)
Think of this concept as determining where everything that is needed to do the job should be placed for easy access. Every item needed for the job-every tool, every SOP, even the MSDS manual-must have a home where it can always be found when it is needed. In most process industry job changeovers, the time can be long and changeovers can be frequent. Line downtime (waste) is increased if equipment needed for the job must be found because it is not in its place.

The benefit of Set in Order is that everything needed for the job is clearly visible in a designated location. A good example of this concept is a maintenance shop that has a board on the wall with an outline of every tool that belongs there. Every tool is visible; if it is not in the appropriate spot, the user can recognize the need to take corrective action ahead of time. Therefore, knowing where to look is the first step in the beginning of a standardized process, as pointed out in the Journal of the Institute for Quality Assurance.2

Shine (Seiso)
This third concept is based on the fact that the process has now eliminated what is not needed and organized the required tools and equipment for efficient use. As a result, the next step is to keep the work area and process equipment-everything else used to make the product-clean. A dirty production process increases the potential for process variability.

For example, consider dirt getting into a batch or coating process and causing rejects down the line due to “foreign material.” A dirty process often requires more time for changeovers due to cleanup-related issues, with the ultimate result being a loss of production or equipment failure. Again, this lost time is considered waste and non-value-added time. Another issue worth considering is that an unclean area is more susceptible to safety issues that could potentially cause worker injury.

Standardize (Seiketsu)
The focus of this term is to have a standardized process for maintaining the system. One lean industry group maintains that this fourth concept “consists of defining the standards by which personnel must measure and maintain ‘cleanliness.’ [For the work environment], visual management is an important ingredient of SEIKETSU. Color-coding and standardized coloration of surroundings are used for easier visual identification of anomalies in the surroundings. Personnel are trained to detect abnormalities using their five senses and to correct such abnormalities immediately.”3

Sustain (Shitsuke)
Most users and research on the implementation of 5S often say this is the most challenging step. It involves making the 5S philosophy a way of life so that the organization can maintain the gains that have been achieved. The concept revolves around practicing the new habits that are being learned. It entails that everyone who is involved feels empowered to maintain order, cleanliness and the standard operating procedures as a normal way of life-as opposed to as a response from an audit finding. As user experience points out, this step “focuses on defining a new status quo and standard of work place.”4

Lessons Learned

Numerous process industry companies have begun the process of implementing lean manufacturing. Some have even made it an integral part of their business strategy, and many began their journey using 5S. For those contemplating methods for the elimination of waste, as well as positioning their organization for long-term improvement, many lessons can be shared from those who successfully use 5S.

A maker of glass X-ray tubes implemented several lean initiatives, including 5S and Design for Six Sigma. The company applied 5S throughout its facility as a first step in going lean, but they also used the gains from 5S to put emphasis on elimination of wait-time and non-value-added activity.5

In another example, one pharmaceutical manufacturer set up Kaizen (continuous improvement) teams to improve safety, documentation, equipment startup and implementation of a 5S program. When the teams met their goals, the company also found that operators “readily take ownership of problems and offer opinions on how processes can be improved.”6

A state government ecology agency and a paint manufacturer conducted a joint study that focused on the linkages of lean and environmental control.7 The research study included implementation of 5S to develop and organize a visual and centralized workstation approach. In addition, the study focused on improving the layout of equipment, materials and product flow. The combined efforts resulted not only in waste reduction from 5S efforts, but also a reduction in hazardous waste disposal costs and a decrease in the amount of wasted paint solvent.

Since they have a similar chemical process orientation to the paint industry, the glass and ceramic industry can clearly benefit from a similar reduction in environmental risk. Glass manufacturing produces large amounts of raw materials to produce batches within specialized facilities. In various stages of manufacture, handling finished products, chemicals, equipment and processes poses significant hazards.

A crystal manufacturer based in Scotland set out to improve its glass melting and forming operation in order to reduce fuel consumption and improve manufacturing efficiency. Though not necessarily termed as lean, the company also implemented a small work team structure. In addition, a best-practice program based on the 5S system was also implemented. The changes and new systems were welcomed by the department’s staff, and the result has not only involved teams taking ownership for their working environment, its cleanliness and operations, but also the implementation of improved planned preventative maintenance programming.8

Continuous Improvement

The process industry offers numerous success stories based on the implementation of 5S, and the current state of manufacturing demands continuous improvement and waste reduction, even in the midst of change. 5S is a good starting point. The utilization of 5S methodologies provides appropriate tools for adapting to change and preparing for a successful future.

For additional information, contact the author at (607) 974-8179 or howellvw@corning.com.

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