What 5S means for manufacturing in today’s market

September 12, 2011

When the discipline of lean manufacturing first became a household name a couple of decades ago, there was a distinct need to trim the fat off general industry practices and procedures, which is what the practice is designed to do. While the state of the economy wasn’t the only deciding factor in this, it may be interesting for owners of small manufacturing companies to consider the ways our current financial state may impact the meaning of the basic lean principles.

A small tactical tool of lean manufacturing, 5S stands for five Japanese words that roughly translate to “sort,” “straighten,” “scrub,” “standardize” and “sustain.”

“Sort” calls for the removal of unnecessary items, but with budgets as tight as they are, industry leaders may reconsider which items and practices they get rid of. “Recycle” and “reuse” might be a better strategy, provided you can still derive use from the end result.

Once you’re done “straightening” (or organizing) your remaining wares, keeping your system “scrubbed” or “shined” will be essential, as upkeep and organization takes on the added meaning in tough economic times of stretching the lifespan of your existing resources.

To “standardize” and then “sustain” a newly polished system is the key to continued success in any economy, but good foresight and strategy will allow you to weather uncertain times and flourish in the immediate aftermath.

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