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Unleashing Productivity with Lean 5S in a Factory Setting: A Personal Journey

Unleashing Productivity with Lean 5S in a Factory Setting: A Personal Journey

Lean 5S

Lean 5S. As a seasoned professional in the manufacturing industry, I've witnessed first-hand how efficiency can make or break operations. There's a constant need to streamline processes, increase productivity, and create a safer environment.

That's why we decided to implement the Lean 5S methodology in our factory. In this blog, I want to share my personal journey of using Lean 5S and the transformative results it brought about.

My Factory Before Lean 5S

Before 5S, our factory was characterized by inefficiency. Tools were difficult to find, workspaces were cluttered, safety issues were not uncommon, and waste was high.

The employees were continually stressed, and morale was low. In 2022, our productivity rate was stagnating at around 60%, and our accident rate was at an uncomfortable 15%.

Embarking on the Lean 5S Journey

Lean 5S, derived from five Japanese words, Seiri (Sort), Seiton (Set in order), Seiso (Shine), Seiketsu (Standardize), and Shitsuke (Sustain), offered a simple and structured approach to address our factory's problems.

Seiri (Sort)

In this phase, we eliminated unnecessary items from our workspace. Our Production Manager, Sarah, rallied the entire team for a week-long "Sort" marathon. As a result, we cleared out redundant tools and equipment, freeing up approximately 20% of our storage space.

Seiton (Set in Order)

Next, we organized our remaining tools and materials to optimize workflows. Carlos, our Floor Supervisor, put a new efficient factory layout in place. The most frequently used tools were now at arm's reach, reducing retrieval time from 5 minutes to just a minute.

Seiso (Shine)

Our new intern, Jake, surprised us all when he led the cleaning initiative. Cleaning became part of our daily routine. In turn, our machinery started lasting longer, with a 30% decrease in machine breakdowns.

Seiketsu (Standardize)

Emily, our Quality Assurance Manager, was tasked with standardizing the new procedures. Thanks to Emily's effort, each worker was clear about their responsibilities, leading to a 15% increase in efficiency.

Shitsuke (Sustain)

Sustaining the system was our final challenge. Through periodic audits, training, and incentive programs, we've managed to embed 5S into our factory culture.

The Transformation: Lean 5S Results

The Transformation: Lean 5S Results

Six months after implementing Lean 5S, the changes were clear to see. The factory floor was uncluttered, organized, and safer. Efficiency jumped to an impressive 80%, a remarkable 20% increase. Downtime due to machine breakdowns dropped by 40%, and our accident rate fell to a record low of 5%.

The most notable improvement, however, was the boost in employee morale. They were no longer stressed about finding tools or working in a cluttered space. Our factory had become a well-oiled machine, all thanks to Lean 5S.

Implementing Lean 5S: The Challenges

As with any new approach, implementing Lean 5S wasn’t a walk in the park. We faced resistance initially, especially during the 'Sort' stage. For many of our team members, letting go of tools and materials, even if they were not being used, felt uncomfortable. However, through constant communication about the benefits of 5S and the vision we had for the factory, we gradually overcame these obstacles.

Another challenge was the ‘Standardize’ stage. Developing new standard operating procedures required a deep understanding of our processes and the ability to foresee any potential issues. But with Emily's meticulous work and the team's cooperation, we managed to create procedures that were easy to follow and effective.

Finally, sustaining the improvements proved to be tricky. It’s easy to fall back into old habits, especially during peak production periods. However, we ensured that we had a strong ‘Sustain’ strategy in place. Regular audits, continuous training, and recognition for maintaining standards have helped us keep the momentum going.

The Personal Benefits of Lean 5S

As the factory manager, Lean 5S has transformed my job. I no longer spend my time firefighting issues or searching for tools. My role has evolved into ensuring the continuous improvement of our systems and processes.

The other significant benefit was the improvement in the team's morale. Seeing the staff more engaged, safer, and less stressed was a rewarding experience. The satisfaction of leading this transformation was immense and reaffirmed my belief in the power of Lean 5S.

Looking to the Future with Lean 5S

Having witnessed the remarkable benefits of Lean 5S, we are committed to embedding it further into our culture. We are currently planning to extend our Lean 5S journey to other areas of our business, including our administrative and HR departments.

Moreover, we have started sharing our success stories with other factories within our network. By doing so, we hope to inspire others and demonstrate that Lean 5S isn't just a system but a philosophy that can revolutionize an entire operation.

lean black belt

Final thoughts

In summary, Lean 5S has transformed our factory from a cluttered, inefficient environment to a model of efficiency and safety. The journey wasn't easy, and we faced our fair share of challenges. But the improvements in productivity, safety, and morale have been well worth the effort.

The Lean 5S methodology isn't a one-size-fits-all solution, and it requires a genuine commitment from the entire team. But if embraced, it can create a more efficient, safer, and happier workspace. After all, a tidy workplace is a productive one.

Thank you for taking the time to read about my journey with Lean 5S. I hope it serves as an inspiration and a practical guide for anyone considering this transformation.

Here are some pieces of advice based on the Lean 5S journey described.

1. Embrace the Lean 5S Philosophy: Lean 5S isn't just a set of steps to follow, it's a mindset. Embracing this philosophy will not only streamline your operations but also create a more enjoyable and productive working environment.

2. Team Involvement is Crucial: Lean 5S is a team effort. Involve everyone, from the top management to the shop floor employees. This collective participation is not only essential for implementation but also helps ensure that the changes are sustained.

3. Communication is Key: Communicate the purpose and benefits of Lean 5S clearly and regularly to your team. This will help overcome resistance to change and ensure everyone is aligned with the goals.

4. Patience and Persistence Pay Off: Implementing Lean 5S is not an overnight task. It requires time and patience. There might be initial resistance, and results may take time to materialize, but persistence will ultimately lead to significant improvements.

5. Audit and Improve: Regular audits are crucial to maintain the standard and identify areas for improvement. Remember, Lean 5S is about continuous improvement. There's always room to refine and optimize.

6. Celebrate Success: Recognize and reward team members for maintaining standards and making improvements. This not only boosts morale but also promotes a culture of excellence.

7. Extend Lean 5S Beyond the Factory Floor: Once you've successfully implemented Lean 5S in one area, consider applying it to other departments or areas. The principles of Lean 5S can be beneficial to almost any process or workspace.

Remember, the Lean 5S journey is about making consistent, incremental changes for continuous improvement. With commitment, teamwork, and a focus on maintaining standards, you'll see significant, lasting benefits. Good luck with your Lean 5S journey!



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