Five Steps to Workplace Organization

Dec. 6, 2021
Does keeping an organized workplace really create a competitive advantage? A Minnesota machining/fabricating shop is showing how the 5S Method promotes worker safety and raises plant productivity.

It’s a competitive world out there but for sheet-metal fabricating and CNC machining shops, it’s more than just a competitive space – it’s crowded! That’s why Decimet Sales Inc. (DSI) looks for ways to differentiate itself from other operations, while striving to maintain production-quality standards and competitive prices. One way is by adopting the 5S method for workplace organization.

Does keeping an organized workplace really create a competitive advantage? The DSI team believes it does and can point to several reasons that it does.

First, the 5S method for workplace organization is a systematic approach to higher productivity. Achieving and maintaining top productivity means producing more finished work in less time, and that translates into satisfied customers. If DSI customers can have their projects completed on-time and within budget, a relationship of trust is built between the shop and its client. That’s a valuable differentiator in a crowded market segment.

Second, the 5S method leads to lower costs. When costs are reduced while product quality is maintained, savings can be passed along to the customer – and that helps build on the relationship of trust.

Additionally, the 5S method can help DSI progress toward even higher quality standards, increased workplace safety, and improved employee satisfaction. When employees feel safe and satisfied, turnover declines and production increases. The shop managers can take on more important tasks rather than spending hours interviewing applicants and training new employees.

There are numerous benefits to a 5S method of shop organization, and they are helping DSI to differentiate its brand as a great choice for metal fabrication and CNC machining services. Those benefits can be traced back to the elements that comprise the 5S method.

The 5S Method Explained

The 5S method was industrialized first by the Toyota Motor Co. in the 1970s. It can be identified as one of the techniques used to achieve Just-in-Time (also called “Lean”) manufacturing, which reduces time in the manufacturing process or the response times between supplier and customer. The philosophy behind this method aims to eliminate all distractions, mess, clutter, or waste in the production process so that the value of customer products or services can be improved or increased.

There are five main elements to the 5S Method that – if implemented correctly – can transform a manufacturing operation into a safer and higher productive facility. These elements are highly practical, and everyone can participate:

The First Element … Sort. With the first element, a value is placed on each item that takes up space in the work area. Any tool, furniture, material, machinery, equipment, or any item not needed for the current production in the applicable area is eliminated. This creates a workspace free of clutter and provides the groundwork for all other elements.

When items are in question, the red tag method can be applied. This involves putting a red tag on the item and placing it in a designated “red tag” area. If the item has not been used in a determined amount of time (one month, for example) then it can be eliminated or stored.

The Second Element … Set in Order. With this element, all things necessary to complete the current production program are put in a strategic or logical place. These items should be easy to store, identify, retrieve, and easily returned to their proper home. The objective is standardization. If multiple items are used together, they should be stored together.

Other standardization options may include storing items in order of priority, or putting items used more frequently closest to the user, labeling items and providing other guidelines that may apply.

One additional consideration is identifying anything that might cause waste – and which can appear in many different forms. For example, defects, wait-time, additional steps, motion, excessive inventory, overproducing or extra processes, transportation or un-utilized skills all can produce some form of waste.

The Third Element … Shine. Keeping your workplace cleaned daily is the third element of the 5S method. This is such a simple concept but easily overlooked and forgotten when production gets busy. Clean machines and work areas make an inviting environment for employees and make them invested as they take ownership of their area.

“Shine” also includes inspection and preventative maintenance. The goal of Shine is to have everything clean and running longer in top working order. That means the work will be safer with fewer injuries and insurance claims. In addition, there will be fewer equipment breakdowns. Breakdowns and investing in repair maintenance, parts, and new equipment is expensive, to say the least.

The Fourth Element … Standardize. Creating a working order, standard procedure, a posted schedule, or checklist will help to ensure the elements of 5S are carried out daily. The goal of Standardize is to systemitize the 5S elements so that one-time tasks can be turned into lasting habits.

Visual charts or posters can be used and are great tools that help remind employees that a system is in place. If a system is in place and employees are held accountable to following it, they will know what to do and when to do it. Standardized procedures create uniform order and greater productivity.

The Fifth Element … Sustain. This last element should be designed to keep employees involved, motivated, and focused on 5S Method, which keeps them on track to greater productivity. Concrete steps must be taken with everyone, including managers to make 5S a long-term program so that 5S becomes part of the business culture rather than a one-time procedure. When 5S becomes part of the culture, employees stop cutting corners, and the business will realize a host of other positive results like increased efficiency and productivity.

Consider a Sixth Element

Some businesses include a sixth element for workplace organization, so it may be referred to as 6S. This element helps to guide management and employees in reducing or mitigating risk and injury. The Safety element may include adding ergonomic strategies to workplaces, marking potentially hazardous areas with signs and labels, or taping off intersections between forklifts and pedestrians. If the workplace has hazardous risks due to the layout or equipment set-up, steps should be taken to eliminate those risks. If an accident occurs, consider why it occurred and if any part of the 5S method should be changed to reduce or eliminate the risk of future accidents.

5S works and makes a difference when everyone is accountable. Both manager and employee play integral roles once the decision has been made to make 5S part of the business culture.

Decimet Sales Inc. knows the importance of 5S and is working every day to sustain it as part of the DSI culture. That means, customers reap the benefits of choosing a metal fabricator or CNC machining service facility that operates with greater efficiency and productivity.

Randy Dennison is the marketing manager at Decimet Sales Inc. in Rogers, Minn.,… “experts in metal fabrication and CNC machining services productivity.” If you have any questions about the 5S method for workplace organization, or if you wish to tour the facility, please contact DSI at tel.763-428-4321.