A Straightforward Approach to 5S

July 13, 2009
Stryker Instruments shares its 5S introduction

Lean is full of acronyms, and among them is 5S. Alan Mauer, a senior project engineer at medical devices maker Stryker Instruments, discussed the rollout of a 5S program at Stryker Instruments during the IndustryWeek Best Plants conference held earlier this year.

What is 5S? In short, it is a tool in a continuous improvement program that aids in visual control. Done right, Mauer says, it helps manage the process, make the company money, and drive improvements in the process.

Prior to addressing each separate component of 5S, Mauer discussed how his firm rolled out the program. Don't take a shot-gun approach to implementing a 5S program, he said. At Stryker, 5S was directed first to the manufacturing constraint. That approach helped to gain buy-in for the program both from the workers on the factory floor as well as management. Mauer also noted that 5S was rolled out one S at a time. Areas had to demonstrate competency in each S to move to the next one.

Mauer also addressed each S individually:

Sort -- Sort out necessary and unnecessary items. The items deemed unnecessary and not being used should be removed from the work area. Mauer pointed out that some items deemed unnecessary were not thrown away but were removed to a storage area. These were items that the unit determined may be used at a later date.

Set-In-Order -- A place for everything and everything in its place so it should be easy to find. Don't go overboard, Mauer said. Be sure to keep asking the question, "What's the benefit?" when making these decisions. Had he the opportunity to do it again, Mauer said he would have stayed in this stage for a full year.

Shine -- In-depth cleaning, daily cleaning and inspect items. Housekeeping is a byproduct of this, not the goal, Mauer emphasized. The goal is to find areas for improvement.

Standardize -- Maintain the first three S's through standards and visual controls.

Sustain -- The 5S is embedded in the factory so that it becomes a way of life. 5S is no longer an event but routine.

To view Mauer's complete presentation online, go to: 5S.

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