Lean manufacturing and 5S is a combination of words that are often heard in the manufacturing space, and not always understood. So let’s break them down. 

What is Lean manufacturing?
Lean manufacturing is a management philosophy that has been originally derived from Toyota. Lean manufacturing plays a vital role in the successful company Toyota has become today and has thus proven its effectiveness. Lean manufacturing in its simplest form, is a systematic method for the elimination of waste. Waste is associated with tasks that do not add value to the manufacturing process, and the customer, as well as other forms of waste such as overstocking and uneven workloads. The idea is to highlight what adds value, by reducing everything else that does not – hence creating a ‘lean’ work environment and culture.

A range of tools and methodologies have been created to help implement Lean manufacturing and to incorporate Lean naturally into routine tasks and processes. This ensures sustainability and a common language across the organisation. The 5S methodology is one of the most popular tools, and is used to organise a work space for efficiency and effectiveness. It can be adopted by businesses of all sizes, even at home. As the name suggests, 5S is short for 5 words, all beginning with the letter S:

  • Seiri (Sort) – Prevention of accumulation via the removal of unnecessary items.
  • Seiton (Straighten) – Arrange items so that they are orderly and easily accessible.
  • Seiso (Shine) – Keeping your work space tidy and maintaining equipment.
  • Seiketso (Standardise) – Create a standard so everything has a proper place and can be easily accessed.
  • Shitsuke (Sustain) – Do it without being told; make the process regular and audit it from time to time.

The use of 5S in any work space will encourage maximum efficiency through organisation.

Lean manufacturing will almost ‘always’ incorporate 5S along with many other tools and methodologies in order to eliminate waste and maximise cost savings.

Regular Lean audits from external consultants are popular in the manufacturing space and will highlight any inefficiencies throughout your systems and processes. Most organisations, such as Vative, are regularly involved in auditing and implementation of Lean manufacturing. Often, a small Lean project can yield tens of thousands to hundreds and thousands of dollars worth of annual cost savings.