Successfully Integrating 5S into a Modern Office Environment
5S is a practical approach to organizing a modern working environment, and it can be highly useful in a variety of different situations. It originated in Japan, much like many other prominent methodologies in the lean family, and it’s focused on ensuring that work can be done as efficiently as possible, identifying and removing waste while focusing on the tools and processes that are truly valuable.
Meaning and implementation
The name of 5S comes from the Japanese names of five principles, although their English names have been translated in a way that preserves the acronym as well. They are sort, set in order, shine, standardize, sustain.
- Sort: it’s important to keep a tidy and organized workspace, and the employee should dedicate a good amount of time from their daily routine to that. All unnecessary items and other form of clutter should be taken away as soon as possible, and they should never be allowed to accumulate under any circumstances.
This also applies to tools that are currently not being used, as well as already completed products that are awaiting transportation to another node of the manufacturing chain. If something cannot be cleared right away, it should ideally be left in a dedicated zone that doesn’t obstruct the worker’s routine.
- Set in order: similar to the first point, but with a different focus. This one is about ensuring that you can reach any desired element of a given set with minimal effort. If you always put your wrenches in order, you’ll know that number 14 comes after 12, and you will spend less time sorting through the toolbox looking for the right piece.
- Shine: a clean workspace is just as important as a tidy one, and 5S pay special attention to that aspect of daily work. Cleaning has another useful purpose too – it can give the employee an opportunity to take a look around and figure out if there is any clutter that needs to be removed. 5S realizes the close connection between maintenance and cleaning, but assigns each one its own specific step in the process to keep everything streamlined and accessible.
- Standardize: everything that happens often and in a predictable manner should be made as standardized as possible. Those standards should then be maintained at high levels whenever possible, and the whole organization should contribute to their development. Ideally, you’d have the entire process of the company standardized from start to finish, but that’s usually not very feasible, so you have to go with a middle-ground solution.
As long as you’ve followed the previous steps and everything is arranged and tidied up though, there should be no reason to have any difficulty implementing this particular step of the process. If anything, implementing standards should become much easier once you’ve started to see some patterns emerge from your previous efforts. You’d be surprised how much you can learn about the way the company works from applying those principles.
- Sustain: last but not least, it’s important to be able to run your business in a sustainable way. This concerns not only your own operations, but the environment and other companies on the market as well. You have to be in a good position towards everyone around you, otherwise you’re going to run into conflicts sooner or later. It’s not difficult to run your business in a way that works well for everyone, and it will even benefit you in the long run too. It does take a lot of discipline though, and additionally, the company will likely have to go through multiple audits to ensure full compliance. But in the end, it will be a good effort with a justified reason.
5S in the digital world
In today’s work environment, we continue to move towards the paperless office, where everything is digital. The 5S approach can be applied to your electronic files using these same steps
- Sort out the files you no longer need
- Set in order the files in a logical manner, so you can’t them much easier
- Shine your disk drives and networks, so they are in the best working condition to run at peak performance
- Standardize the folder and file names to make it easy for others to find them
- Sustain the effort so you are continually deleting and archiving files as you go
The 5S method can be highly effective in ensuring that your company is moving towards a common goal that unites everyone within it, and that you’re prepared for the future too. It takes some effort to get everything in place, but once you’ve got the ball rolling, it will be a very smooth experience from then on. Of course, you’ll also want to ensure that the 5S process is being followed regularly and not just implemented once, but that falls under the category of discipline.