Equipment and Solutions

5S: What It Is and How You Can Implement It in Your Warehouse

Lean warehousing is about more than creating a beautiful workspace. The process eliminates waste, increases productivity and cuts costs — 5S practices are crucial in achieving this feat. Implementation of the 5S principles transforms businesses into competitive ventures worldwide. Managers and business owners can detect problems quickly and prevent future occurrences. With the help of this concept, they elevate their organizations to the next level.

But what is the 5S and how can you strategically implement it in your warehousing? Today, we’ll reveal the answers.

What Is 5S?

5S is a method of organizing and managing spaces to eliminate waste and increase productivity, quality and safety. The initial development had lean manufacturing in mind. However, the concept’s application is much broader today.

5S’ meaning becomes clearer with the origin story. In the 1950s, the Japanese developed four principles: Seiri, Seiton, Seiso and Seiketsu. Subsequently, the fifth rule, Shitsuke, was added, completing the 5S. As the system grew popular, especially in the United States, the English versions of the terms were adopted — sort, set in order, clean, standardize and sustain. So, what do these principles mean?

1. Seiri (Sort)

The first principle concerns eliminating unnecessary things from the warehouse. The aim is to provide workers with a clean, organized, functional space. Seiri adopts a visual method called red tagging to determine excessive items. The red tagging process involves tagging each item according to their priority in the job performance, where items you no longer need get a tag to be removed later. 

Evaluate your equipment during this process, as well. If your material handling equipment is in poor condition, sitting around unused, you can tag it to either be serviced or replaced.

Sorting everything from small tools to large pieces of equipment reduces warehouse hazards, simplifies tasks, enhances space usage and increases overall productivity. 

2. Seiton (Set in Order) 

The emphasis here is on storage methods — to determine where and when you need the items. Seito aims to streamline your warehouse space for efficient workflow. Imagine the satisfaction of quickly finding things whenever you need them. That’s the essence of Seiton.

Seiton utilizes visual identification and communication. High-priority items are labeled to assist workers in using them correctly. The process also directs workers to return the items to the right place after use. 

Interestingly, the original implementation of Seiton included humans. How so? The principle required workers to dress appropriately in uniforms according to their roles. That way, you can quickly identify each person’s duty. Today, you can use color-coding by painting floors or outlining areas in matching colors. You might also outline where tools should be placed on a peg board so workers return them to the right place.

3. Seiso (Shine)

With Seiso, you shine the work area after decluttering the space. Workers are productive in clean areas because they feel comfortable and safe. Moreover, cleanliness raises your business’ behavioral standards. Seiso requires regular inspection and cleaning to keep the workspace hygienic. This is a continuous routine. 

Your cleaning procedure can include regularly taking out trash, dusting surfaces and ensuring pallets and shelves are set up correctly. To make cleaning processes more efficient, use equipment like floor sweepers and scrubbers to remove spots of dirt, debris and spills.

The “visual cleaning” process may include documenting the disarray to find the root cause of disorganization. It’s better to solve the root cause  rather than embarking on tedious, repetitive cleanups. Besides making the space comfortable, Seiso gives a good impression about your business, enhances health and self-esteem, decreases injury and health liability and increases the life span of your material handling equipment.

4. Seiketsu (Standardize) 

So far, we’ve implemented three essential principles to ensure efficient workflow. Seiketsu invites you to standardize those practices. The practices should become the hallmark of your business. 

Allow employees to be part of the standardization process. Ask them what is working and what isn’t to get a sense of how you should organize your warehouse. You can then implement their ideas, along with regular training practices to remind long-time and new employees about your processes.

Seiketsu pushes employees to demand high standards from each other, thereby boosting quality output.  

5. Shitsuke (Sustain)

Once you’ve established a high standard in your organization, you must maintain and improve it. This is the most challenging of the 5S. It requires you to sustain the processes until they evolve into norms. When effectively executed, these norms create an identity — a new status quo for your business. Implementation of Shitsuke demands commitment and self-discipline. It prevents gradual decline back to your warehouse’s old ways. 

What Is Lean Manufacturing?

Lean manufacturing is a production process that maximizes productivity while minimizing waste and unnecessary operations. Lean manufacturing is closely associated with the 5S. This process is a management tool that limits the consumption of resources without compromising quality and productivity. 

Why Is 5s Important?

The benefits of 5S are extensive. The primary essence is to eliminate waste, which transcends into many advantages. Here are five benefits of 5s:

  • Enhances efficiency: Consistent good practice of these principles increases productivity at the workplace. The 5S system keeps your warehouse clean and organized, making it easy to locate items. Improving on the standards helps you maintain high efficiency over a long duration.
  • Increases safety: The clearer the space, the lesser the exposure to workplace hazards. 5S practices help reduce injury-causing obstacles and prepare the area for intensive yet safe work. Workplace safety directly reduces liability as well. 
  • Reduces expense: Besides limiting legal liability, 5S practices help maximize the space, maintain the temperature, increase work efficiency and many more benefits. A combination of these cuts down costs, which can help your business grow. You can also avoid purchasing redundant supplies, equipment or tools when you know where everything is.
  • Reduces downtime and improves maintenance: Implementing the 5S creates a suitable working environment. Workers can get tasks done quicker and better. Organizing equipment and keeping a clean space also reduce product defects and failures.
  • Improves employees’ morale: 5S has psychological significance beyond the physical. Following this system instills a healthy mindset in both workers and management. Employees will come to demand high standards from each other and take the initiative, which is excellent for your company. 

How to Implement 5S in Your Warehouse

Practicing 5S in your warehouse has many benefits. Yet, how do you do that? The first step is to understand the 5S. This makes them easier to implement. Next, use these practical approaches as a guide: 

  1. Remove unnecessary items: Begin the process by sorting items in your warehouse. Separate all items and red tag them according to priority. Do this in every space, including shelves, pallet racks or storage areas. Discard those items you no longer need and place the important yet scarcely used items aside. Do the same for equipment that needs repairs.
  2. Add labels and signs: Streamline your warehouse with an emphasis on process flows and waste elimination. Use signs to instruct and remind workers of essential information. Mark the floors and aisles to reduce foot traffic and confusion. Also, label the items for easy identification.
  3. Clean and establish a routine: Next, clean the warehouse. Acquire janitorial supplies and spill kits to help you through the process. Do this regularly and conduct routine safety inspections. You may even hire a dedicated janitorial crew if you don’t already have one. Cleaning the warehouse makes the space comfortable and prevents slips and falls. 
  4. Train your employees: Set a standard in your company. This would require regular training sessions. Secure posters and charts to educate employees on the practices you’ve adopted. You may also prepare training materials such as videos to aid visual learning and recommend helpful books and articles. 
  5. Follow through: Finally, sustain the practices implemented. This would require proper evaluation and monitoring protocols. Include metrics to assist you in assessing the progress made and the effectiveness of these new procedures. Ultimately, the goal is to reduce waste and increase quality, safety and productivity.

RAKA: Your Trusted Warehousing Solutions

5S practices help eliminate waste in your warehouse. They increase work quality and safety and reduce workplace injury liability. Applying each principle effectively helps you achieve the overall benefits. To further streamline your warehouse operations, you need efficient material handling equipment.

RAKA has a 40-year track record of providing warehousing solutions to make businesses more efficient and successful. Our new and used material handling equipment can help your teams work efficiently and keep your warehouse organized. With our equipment services, including general preventive maintenance, you can keep the equipment you need in good working order, eliminating downtime.

Do you want to transform your warehouse into a reliable workspace? Contact us today!