How 5S Standardization Raises the Standard for Product Quality

by | Nov 30, 2020 | Industry

Reading Time: 5 minutes

It’s no secret that organization is key to the success of any business, but just how to approach that can be confusing. Standardizing your business’s operating procedures and implementing organization that is clear, consistent, and practical can increase your operating efficiency and in turn, your customer satisfaction rate. Being able to deliver a high-quality product the first time, every time, is the goal of most businesses.

So, where does this consistent quality standardization begin? For some companies, applying the 5S system creates a perfectly synchronized, organized, and efficient logistical process between warehouse and consumer that can help guarantee the consistency that businesses hope for. The implementation of this system is a clear indicator to the consumer that they’re working with a reliable and trustworthy company whose goal is to meet your needs and increase customer satisfaction.


What is a 5S System?

The 5S system is a system of organization that was originally developed for use by Toyota as part of the Toyota Production System. This system focuses on increasing the efficiency, safety and effectiveness of work performance by implementing the 5S’s. In Japanese, they mean “Seiri, Seiton, Seiso, Seiketsu and Shitsuke,” which roughly translate to “Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize and Sustain,” respectively. 

The 5S system prioritizes cleanliness, organization and eliminating production waste in order to create a consistently higher quality product for the consumer. Systematically organizing a production facility in this way decreases the likelihood for malfunction or error in the production process, and increases the likelihood that each product will be more identical. It also increases productivity, reducing consumer costs and increases employee satisfaction while creating a safer work environment. It can be highly beneficial for both the business and the customer.


What Each S Means for Productivity 

1. Sort:

The first “S” involves reducing unnecessary tools and equipment from the work environment, in order to increase organization and productivity. “Sort” involves taking inventory of all the tools, materials, furniture and equipment in the workplace to decide what is required and what is taking up space. Businesses make this determination by asking the following questions: 

  • What is the purpose of this item?
  • When was the last time this item was used?
  • How often is this item used?
  • Who uses this item?
  • Does this item need to be removed?


Asking these questions helps the business evaluate whether the items in the workspace are adding to, or taking away from the company’s productivity and the employees’ safety and satisfaction. For this reason, the employee that uses that particular workspace is the best person to answer the questions and determine the value of the objects in the workspace. 

If the employee/business decides that some of the items can/should be removed from the workspace, they should then decide whether the items should be relocated to a different part of the work area. If not, some items can be recycled or sold. The business might also decide to store the items for future use, outside of the production space. 


2. Set in Order:

There are many ways that a business can be wasteful, and businesses should aim to reduce waste as much as possible. Waste can mean production waste, like overproduction, excess inventory, and defective items. It can also mean resource waste, like unnecessary shipping time and other logistical considerations, or wasted employee time through unnecessary work or even pauses in work. 

Setting things in order is the “S” meant to mitigate waste. This increases both the company’s productivity and employee job satisfaction. Setting things in order will probably be a collaborative effort, as it requires organizing the remaining items after they’ve been sorted. Of the items that have been saved, the company might ask, “Where is this item best used,” and “How should items be grouped?”

Deciding how to best use the items that you need, and determining where those items should be stored requires the work group to determine the most logical use and storage for their materials. They might ask whether or not a different order reduces unnecessary movement or waiting, and how moving items would change the workflow for different groups of employees. Lastly, considering whether more storage containers are required in a specific workspace helps increase productivity by organizing the materials that are required.


3. Shine:

Keeping a clean workspace goes beyond simply keeping an organized one. Think about the way a sticky coffee spill on the floor of your workplace disrupts the flow of productivity. What may seem like insignificant amounts of wasted time in the short term can quickly start costing the business money as they add up and slowly draw energy away from being productive. “Shine” encourages the business to keep clean by sweeping mopping, cleaning surfaces, and putting materials away after use.

The Shine segment of the 5S’s is especially relevant as many businesses remain open and producing while employees try to navigate global health concerns. Keeping your work area clean is not only helpful for employee peace of mind, productivity, and job satisfaction, it’s necessary in helping maintain focus and safety in the workplace. “Shine” should ideally be a daily part of the employee’s routine, and requires everyone’s accountability for their own space and surfaces. 


4. Standardize:

Now that your workspace is cleaner, more organized, safer, and streamlined for increased productivity, it’s time to standardize the processes in place and to create an indefinite model for production that is realistic and sustainable. Old habits die hard, so standardizing your new systems in an established production place can be difficult, but there are several things businesses do to keep the momentum going.

One aspect of standardization is creating and implementing standard operating procedures. These procedures define in writing the who, what, where, when, and why of a process, and create a tangible rule book complete with safety and special circumstance considerations. Typically the SOP should be developed by a high-level leader within the company who is familiar with the company’s mission, values, and long and short-term goals. SOPs can be modified as the business changes or need arises, but are typically the voice of authority for all types of company operations.

In addition to developing SOPs, companies that use 5S organization also develop and implement schedules for things like cleaning and maintenance. Checklists, charts, and delegating leaders for these processes can all be helpful for keeping the systems in place and making sure they’re being routinely followed up on. Without standardization, the 5S system will not be sustainable. 


5. Sustain:

Sustaining the systems in place and the level of organization achieved through the first 4 S’s is the ultimate goal of the 5S system. Once employed, 5S companies want to see their systems for organization increasing effectiveness year over year, in order to create a more consistent production operation and final product. 

This phase might mean checking in periodically to assess the effectiveness of the current systems and examining the processes in place at other companies to find ways to improve. It could mean modifying your SOPs, changing the frequencies of scheduled tasks, or considering other workspace layouts. Seeking the opinions of the employees “on the ground” in the production space is likely to yield some suggestions as people get comfortable operating within the new system. Making sure that all new employees are well-trained in the systems in place and the importance of the 5S system is also important for sustainability.


Consistency is Key

Companies that employ the 5S system of organization can reap the benefits almost immediately. What’s more important is that product consistency and quality both begin to increase immediately and continue to increase as the processes in place become second nature and increase company productivity. Customers who choose to work with companies like DirectMed can enjoy the peace of mind that comes from consistently high-quality products, product transportation, and company interaction. The difference between 5S companies and those who do not standardize is clear and substantial, so make sure you do your research into organizational and standardization procedures within the companies you interact with.


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