The Six Sigma Tools: The 5S Methodology

Simplicity is power. The lean Six Sigma 5S tool refers to the Japanese lean production philosophy which has brought some form of clarity and purpose to automotive assembly lines. The principle of operation is that the simplest and cleanest solution is always the best one. Whereas complexity may be impressive, simplicity is often the least expensive.

A 5S lean system is an effective and natural way of achieving a not only a lean, but also a bottle-neck free process. More emphasis is laid on simple, clear, and free flowing processes. There are many benefits delivered by the principles. It is an essential cornerstone of any Six Sigma training program. Moreover, the concepts are able to be applied in other fields of life other than the workplace.

The five key steps, just like its name suggests, all start with letter S. The first step in the process is sorting. There is the Pareto principle that states that 80% of results obtained result from only 20% of the inputs. Business people ought to ask themselves what matters most in their business process. In addition, there are single components that often make genuine difference, and these ought to be known too.

Next, is straightening. A place for everything and everything its place is the phrase that summarizes the aim of this phase. Order and precision are very key elements in effectively dealing with quality, time, and money. The three dimensions, that is quality, time and money, can be improved by an orderly and timely approach.

Shining is the third phase of the 5S Six Sigma Tool. When work ends each day, the office should be clean and very orderly. Humans are creatures of routine, therefore there ought to be a sub-conscious, self-starting daily habit of cleaning the office. This goes a long way in ensuring that work continues to churn, tasks do not get lost or looked over, and cleanliness is maintained; which all improve service delivery.

Standardizing is equally important; the 4th phase of the 5S methodology. The entire business process should be thought of as a component. It should be discreet in a way that it can easily be interchanged with other functions. As such, strangers should be able to come in and very easily pick up the process. To make sure of this interchangeability, documented process flowcharts are essential. The interchangeability is the hallmark of efficient processes.

Sustaining, the 5th and final ‘S’ is the process that ensures there is continuity of processes after every week, all through the year. Whereas it may not be a very easy path, discipline can help in achieving greatness. Similarly, the workplace and its organization must be responsive, so as to achieve changes in its operating environment.

Clearly, there are some very important principles in considering the 5S Six Sigma Tool. 5S never leads to a static world. It encourages continuous development, as it is very important to learn what drives successful processes. Most of the time companies make decisions that are based on an imprecise appreciation of what exactly the real competitive advantage is. By basing decisions on a statistical quality control theory, like the Six Sigma Process, companies can ensure that they are doing their very best to ensure success for many years to come.