5S philosophy is key for manufacturing support contractors

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By Kevin Crittendon

Every maintenance and manufacturing support contractor should maintain a steadfast commitment to safety, customer satisfaction, and quality services. In order to deliver on these commitments, programs must be implemented and tools used that are designed specifically for the work environment for continuous improvement. One of the key components to continuous improvement is 5S, which is a management philosophy devoted to proper arrangement and orderliness of the workplace.

The 5S philosophy applies to any work area and is a key tool to eliminate waste. Industrial markets typically categorize waste as: overproduction (manufacturing an item before it is needed); excessive inventory (work in progress from overproduction and waiting); waiting (poor material flow); motion (unnecessary and inappropriate movement); transportation (moving product between processes); rework (quality issues from defects); and over-processing (use of high-cost equipment when it isn’t necessary).

In order to achieve high levels of safety, quality, and productivity, workers must have a conducive working environment that is clean and organized. The elements of 5S are common sense and simple to learn:

  • Sort — Eliminate whatever is not needed
  • Straighten — Organize whatever remains
  • Shine — Clean the work area
  • Standardize — Schedule regular cleaning and maintenance
  • Sustain — Make 5S a way of life

The benefits and advantages of implementing 5S can be tremendous and quantified, and include: visual management; improved safety; higher equipment availability; lower defect rates; reduced costs; visual organization; improved employee morale; better asset utilization; and enhanced enterprise image to customers, suppliers, employees, and management.

When a company embraces 5S, it establishes a solid foundation for continuous improvement. Through a team-based approach, workplace organization results in a safer environment with more-efficient work processes. Typically, improvements are realized in productivity, quality, and employee morale. Because the team takes ownership to manage the entire process, continuous improvement is sustainable.

Kevin Crittendon is Director of Continuous Improvement for GreenWood Inc., a provider of integrated maintenance, operations, and construction solutions. He can be reached at kcrittendon@gwood.com.

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