February 14, 2013 Leave a comment
We, like many companies, have adopted lean processes including a 5S program that has been sustained now for many years. In the time that we implemented 5S, OM, VSM and other programs we built ours through our needs and from a search and reapply approach. This meant going to other companies and seeing how they developed their programs to situate their business needs. In doing all of this work you end up seeing so many different approaches of the same model. One of the biggest adaptations was on 5S which also include 6S programs, 7S programs and even one 8S program.
Sort, Set, Shine, Standardize and Sustain is the English translation of the original 5S model. The basic idea is that you maintain a work space to a level of organization and cleanliness that you create efficiencies by eliminating wastes. The majority of the eliminated wastes are time spent on time looking for tools, moving objects to get to work and organizing the work station for how the work should be done. This includes eliminating clutter, cleaning the machines to “original state” deciding which items are necessary and ensuring they have an efficient home. Quite simply, if completed and done well with employee buy-in then the ultimate goal is to sustain this level and gain efficiencies in the work
Over the years many companies saw a significant improvement in safety once implementing the 5S program. The correlation makes sense as well; with the elimination of clutter and oils from machines you eliminate many slips and trips. Additionally if you standardize the work method you can eliminate some repetitive stress injuries. Even other items like proper tool placement with elimination of barriers stopped and prevented many strains and injuries. In following, safety then became the 6th S for some and part of this form of this efficiency program.
When reading this your immediate reaction might be that this is perfectly logical. There is an adherent link between the two programs and therefore the combination can save time and resources instead of separating the two and creating redundancies. The issue is though are you providing a strong enough safety program to protect your employees, contractors, visitors and the community?
HS&E programs are becoming more and more stringent on the requirements and additionally strong programs demonstrate excellent payback. While a 6S program would address many risks and hazards it would also leave huge gaps, especially in preventive and administrative programs. Wellness, early return to work, airborne contaminant testing, noise and many other programs do not fit in the simplicity that is the basis of a 5S program. A company that tries to merge the two runs the risk of either over complicating a 5S program that is to be maintained through operators or worse missing critical areas of a comprehensive HS&E program. So while safety is definitely enhanced when 5S is implemented and the benefits will be immediately demonstrated, to simplify it as the 6th S could put you and your employees at risk.