Productivity: Leverage Lean's 5S

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Q. How can I help  employees create the best working environment?

A. Think about the best environment you could work in. Would it be described like this: clean, well lit, organized, easy to find things, comfortable, environmental and intuitive. Most of us want to work in an environment that will enhance productivity and help us to do our jobs well. So how do we create that environment for our employees and have our employees maintain that sort of work environment? The answer is leveraging a Lean tool: 5S.

The five components of 5S are defined as sort, set in order, shine, standardize, and sustain. 5S is a tool that reduces waste in your work environment through better workplace organization, visual communication and general cleanliness. This is one of the primary tools necessary to improve and eliminate wastes such as motion, searching, inventory and improve quality and function within work areas.

When implementing 5S, staff should not just focus on getting organized. Rather, they need to consider how they deal with all the things that come to them and what is within their environment; this will help in creating a 5S workplace.

5S is a Lean tool that should be implemented along with process improvement. When implementing 5S, you rapidly affect your work or production environment with a minimal expenditure. Most organizations report 5% to 10% efficiency improvement in several months, which is sustainable over time.

In summary, leveraging 5S to improve and sustain your organization's work environment will improve productivity, enhance employee motivation working in the environment, and actively engage employees in establishing and sustaining their workplace.

Janice Ahlstrom is a partner in the Healthcare Practice of consulting firm Wipfli LLP. Reach her at 414-431-9352 or