The start of a new year is the perfect time to revitalize your shop—and its protocols—for the year ahead. Savvy shops worldwide leverage the 5S methodology for creating and maintaining an efficient, productive workspace.
Developed in Japan, the 5S methodology inspires more than cleanliness; it’s an actionable system that boosts manufacturing efficiency and enhances machining safety, driving increased profits, elevated morale, and long-term success.
Manufacturing and the 5S Methodology
The 5S workplace organization method leverages five keywords. In their original Japanese, these keywords are seiri, seiton, seisō, seiketsu, and shitsuke. Translated into English, the 5S protocol includes these five directives:
1. Sort (seiri)
The foundation of 5S is establishing a clutter-free facility. Begin with an honest assessment of your shop’s workspaces. Is every surface littered with unnecessary items? Are employees forced to dig through disarray to find what they need? Sort through the mess, identify the recyclables, toss the trash, and sell unused items. Now you’re ready for the next step.
2. Set in order (seiton)
Give every item in your shop a “home”–a specific place to belong–by organizing your tools and equipment logically and neatly. With everything set in order, your team won’t be burdened by distractions or held up by lengthy searches for tools and equipment. Instead, employees will be empowered to maximize manufacturing efficiency and achieve impressive personal productivity.
3. Shine (seisō)
Keeping your shop neat and clean does more than improve its aesthetics. The “Shine” step emphasizes functionality and safety with regular cleaning schedules that address the root causes of uncleanliness, such as oil leaks or material chips. A proactive approach not only improves your shop’s appearance but also extends the life of equipment and reduces safety hazards.
4. Standardize (seiketsu)
The goal of the “Standardize” step is to establish a uniform approach to sorting, organizing, and cleaning. Implement consistent labeling systems, control methods, and employee training to get everyone on the same page and make maintenance more manageable.
5. Sustain (shitsuke)
Finally, the “Sustain” step calls for machine shop management to integrate 5S practices into the shop’s culture. Along with engaging your current employees in the 5S methodology, you should train new hires to adopt and apply these methods from their first day on the job. As the 5S protocol becomes second nature, it becomes easier and easier to maintain.
6S: NTMA’s Enhanced Approach to 5S
At NTMA, we take the 5S system a step further by adding a sixth S: “Safety.” Improved machining safety is a natural byproduct of the 5S methodology. However, in an industry where accidents can be disabling or even deadly, we believe Safety deserves its own clear callout.
NTMA’s 6S methodology not only protects shop employees but also reduces the company’s liability in case of accidents. Make safety training a regular aspect of your shop’s operations, and you’ll be set for a long, successful future in manufacturing.
The Transformative Power of 6S
Machine shop management teams see these enormous advantages when they embrace and implement NTMA’s 6S strategy:
- Better customer experience. First impressions are crucial. A clean, well-organized shop impresses customers and auditors alike by showcasing a commitment to quality and attention to detail. When the shop floor is organized, and the environment exudes professionalism, your customers will spend with confidence.
- Improved operational efficiency. Organization is key to streamlined operations and manufacturing efficiency. Surrounded by neatly organized and easily accessible tools, equipment, and materials, your team will be fully equipped for optimized productivity.
- Increased workplace pride. A well-maintained shop fosters a sense of pride among employees. From the owner’s office to the shop floor, every square foot of your shop should support a culture of quality, precision, and professionalism. When workers feel proud of their workplace, their overall job satisfaction soars, too.
The 6S Excellence Award
NTMA member shops that undergo our annual Success Audit are eligible for a 6S Excellence Award. We developed this initiative to recognize shops that adhere to the highest standards of the 6S methodology. Participants must submit a detailed worksheet by September 1 for the chance to gain recognition for their commitment to excellence in manufacturing.
Since launching the 6S Excellence Award Program, we’ve noticed that award recipient shops are those that maintain high levels of employee buy-in. For 5S and 6S protocols to work, a shop’s entire team needs a clear understanding of how these practices benefit their daily work.
If you aim to apply for the next 6S Excellence Award, cultivate compliance and enthusiasm among your employees. They’re the people who will do the hands-on work of transforming the shop environment into a cleaner, more efficient, and more enjoyable place to work.
Get Set for Future Success
We know you have lofty goals for your shop’s organization, safety, and efficiency. Transform your goals into measurable standards by incorporating the 6S methodology into your daily practices. With Sort, Set in order, Shine, Standardize, Sustain, and Safety at the forefront of your operation, you’ll nurture a teamwide mindset of continuous improvement and excellence.
As you pursue another productive year, embrace the 6S principles and integrate them into your workplace practices. Improved manufacturing efficiency and machining safety begin here.