As we discussed in Part 1 of our “Using Lean Production to Reduce Manufacturing Costs” series, lean manufacturing starts with understanding what creates value for a customer and delivering it in the most cost-effective way possible. Often, before we can begin reducing inventories and eliminating waste, we need to assess our work areas.

An unorganized work space can lead to an increase in production time and, eventually, costs. The 5S strategy of lean production focuses on cleaning up the workspace for optimal employee performance. The following concepts will greatly improve efficiency and increase your company’s bottom line:

  • Sort. Eliminate all unnecessary items from the workspace (including unnecessary tools, parts and instructions). Sort through all tools and materials in the work area, keeping only the essentials. Place the essentials in easily-accessible places and store or discard the rest.
  • Set in Order. Everything should have a place, and everything should be in its place. Clearly label the place for each tool and material. Arrange the items in a manner that promotes efficient work flow (making the equipment used most often easily accessible).
  • Shine. Conduct regular cleaning and maintenance on equipment in the workspace. Keep the work area clean and tidy, making sure not to leave any trash or debris. Make it a habit to clean up the workstation and store all materials in their proper places at the end of each shift. Maintaining cleanliness should be a daily task, not an occasional activity.
  • Standardize. Work practices should be consistent. All workstations that perform the same job should be identical. Employees that work the same jobs should be able to work in any station with the same tools and materials in the same location.
  • Sustain. Maintain and review the standards with your employees. Encourage them to maintain focus on this new way instead of falling back into old practices. Continue to look for improvements.

Lean Manufacturing’s goal is to eliminate all waste, including time spent in production. The 5S strategy helps employees reduce the amount of time preparing for production and searching for materials. It also improves employee engagement and encourages them to look for ways to reduce production time.

Learn more about using lean production methods to reduce manufacturing costs by downloading our article series on Lean Manufacturing insights.