5S philosophy hits home


At least once or twice a year, I hear these dreaded words: “We really need to clean the garage.”

We clean it. We really do. But, inevitably, because it’s a little used space, things seem to pile up—boxes of Christmas decorations, gardening tools, buckets to wash the car and so on.

52 philosophy
Simply put, 5S is a way to clean, organize and set up processes to maintain a high-functioning area.

And so, my husband and I will pick a Saturday to tackle the beast. My cleaning style is to work alone and move quickly. My motto is some progress is better than no progress. Can we walk through the garage now? Can we lay our hands on what we need? Great. Let’s go to the movies.

My husband, however, enjoys company and brings a methodical style to the party. He thinks the correct way to clean the garage is to take every last item out and start from scratch. Obviously, this always has seemed like an unnecessary (and overly long) step to me. You can imagine my chagrin when I read Julie A. Palm’s story on the 5S concept.

I was unfamiliar with the concept. Simply put, 5S is a way to clean, organize and set up processes to maintain a high-functioning area. For bedding producers, implementing such a “clean manufacturing” system readies them for success. Machines are maintained, new employees know where things live and the overall manufacturing process runs more efficiently.

You can read through the five steps—sort, straighten, shine, standardize and sustain—here. But the one that caught my attention is the starting point. Brian C. Neuwirth, vice president of marketing and sales for Lakewood, New Jersey-based UNEX Manufacturing, has this recommendation: Begin by “removing all items from your work area. (Then), inspect the equipment and identify those items that are critical to the success of the function performed at the workstation.”

The rest of the article details helpful hints on how to make your facility more productive and efficient—and how to keep it that way. There’s so much good food for thought there. I see how this technique can apply to many areas in addition to manufacturing. In fact, a quick Google search revealed that the 5S method has been implemented in health care, education and government.

Headshot of BedTimes Managing Editor Beth English
Beth English
Managing Editor

As I take a look around my workspace, I see areas that need to be sorted, straightened and cleaned. And I certainly need to discover ways to make this happen on a more regular basis. It does affect my work and the people around me. If you can’t lay your hands on an essential tool or piece of information quickly, it slows the whole process down.

While my garage is not a workspace that requires efficiency, it does need to be functional. We should be able to locate what we need easily by getting rid of the unused items and making homes for the things we do need.

Once we tackle these projects, I can imagine how much nicer and more useful our home will be. Maybe it’s just the thing your company needs, too.