Find below the first part of an article I found on Implementing 5S in the Office. Each week, we'll post the next part.

A 5S System is a low cost system that will clean and organize your workplace. It will increase productivity and raise employee morale. This article that will give you some basic information on how to implement a 5S system in your workplace.

One of the keys to the success of a 5S system is to have the full support of the management of your company. While a 5S system is low cost to implement, it will require changes to the work habits of employees and needs the support and reinforcement of management.

Educate Yourself on 5S

The first thing you need to do is educate yourself on 5S. Purchase books and do some research online. Write an overview of what the 5S system is and how it will be implemented in your company. Present your proposal to management for their approval.

You may meet resistance since old habits are hard to break. Explain how the 5S system is a useful tool that can improve productivity, promote safety and lower costs. Explain how the 5S system will make the workplace cleaner, safer and more pleasant for the employees. Emphasize the low cost involved to implement and the potential savings of a successful 5S system. Management loves to hear of low cost ways to save the company money!

Create a 5S System Plan and a 5S Team

Before you begin a 5S System you must plan for it. This involves walking around the workplace and taking notes. Look at how people work. How far away is the work to be done and the tools and parts used to do the work from the workstation? What is lying around that is not used? Are there any obvious work hazards? If so they should be taken care of immediately. Explore every area, ever file cabinet, ever drawer looking for items that do not belong where they are. From these notes you can map out your plan of attack.

A 5S system is a team concept. It requires the participation of everyone in order to sustain it. You should pick a core group of people from various workstations to be members of your 5S team. 5S team members should be well organized and with a good sense for the workflow. While long-term employees are valuable members, someone who has not been around long can add a set of “fresh eyes” to team. Once your team is intact you need to hold a series of planning sessions.

As you did with management, the first step with your 5S team will be to educate them on what 5S is and the benefits of it. During these sessions you need to determine how the 5S system will be implemented in your workplace. There is no one size fits all approach, but each step of the 5S system should be implemented, monitored and continuously improved.

5S System Steps

The first three steps, sort, straighten and shine are primarily housekeeping measures. Remember a 5S System is not a one time event. It is a continuous process of improving the workplace. For a 5S System to succeed the first three steps should be part of the daily work routine, usually carried out at the end of each shift or work day.

  • The Sort step should include a plan for both sort events and the daily work habits of employees. Limits on the amount of work in progress should be set so as not to overload a workstation. You will need designated areas where items tagged for removal from a workstation can be taken during a red tag sort event phase. These can be temporary areas near the workstations. In planning for the sort step take into consideration a red tag event will disrupt work. You may need to plan for this event to be done during off work hours.
  • The Straighten step has as its foundation “There should be a place for everything and everything should be in its place”. Your 5S team will need to establish designated areas for everything from parts to cleaning supplies. These areas should be marked and documented. One of the greatest benefits of the straighten step is employees will know where to go to find what they are looking for.
  • The Shine step is all about cleanliness. Determine if more trash and recycling containers are needed and where they should be placed. If you do not have a green workplace plan, a 5S System is a good place to lay the foundation of recycling items such as paper and cardboard. Determine if you have enough cleaning supplies or any tools such as a shop-vac are needed and where they will be stored. These items will be used on a daily basis.
  • The Standardize step of the 5S System is about your systems. Examine areas such as how your parts and supplies are received. They should be put in place immediately. Examine your workflow system to see how efficient it is. Parts, tools and work to be done should be close to the workstation. If an employee has to walk 500 feet to get something they routinely use, find a way it can be moved closer. The standardize step can be a framework for an overall process and quality management system. This step should be revisited frequently to look for areas of improvement.
  • The Sustain step is the final and most important step in the 5S System. No matter how well laid out the plan you must be able to sustain it. Sustaining the program requires employees to be educated on the benefits of a 5S System and it should be made a requirement of their daily work routine. Old habits are hard to break so monitoring that the system is being following is a requirement.

Some tools that may help you with your 5S System include:

  • Educational materials for the 5S team and employees. Posters placed around the workplace will remind employees of the 5S System.
  • A bulletin board dedicated to the 5S System. You can post educational material, event notices and location charts of designated areas. Before and after pictures are very useful to show how bad things were and how much better they are now.
  • Rewards such as recognition of areas, groups or teams for their efforts in support of the 5S System
  • 5S is a team oriented system, allow anyone to offer suggestions on improvements. You will be surprised at what employees can come up with. Plus, no one knows better how the work flows than the ones doing the work. This is useful information for the standardization step.

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