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What is 5S?



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  • 5S is a methodology that focuses on creating workplace organization and standard work.
  • When implemented the results are a clean, organized visual workplace. 
The 5 S methods include 5 steps that are labeled by the word that references the basic elements of the method.
diagram: 5s.gif

Sort:  Means sorting out what items, supplies, equipment that you need in the work area to perform work. It means you remove all of the items, supplies, equipment that you do not need to perform the work.

Set In Order:  Means finding the proper place for all items, supplies, and equipment so that everyone can easily identify, find, use and put it away when done.

Shine:  Means cleaning the work area and making sure that all items, supplies and equipment are in working order.

Standardize:  Is the method that is developed to maintain the first three steps of the process.

Sustain: Is the habit or discipline to maintain the standards and procedures.

The 5 Steps of the process need to be implemented in order as each step builds on the work of the previous step. For example if you start with step 3 Shine but you haven’t done steps 1 & 2 and your workplace is a chaos how do you know what you need to clean and what not? Or, if you start with step 2 Setting in Order, but skipped step 1 Sorting, you would be wasting time, energy, and space to set in order things that might not even need to be there in the first place.

Some people mistakenly believe that a clean, organized visual workplace is the purpose of the 5S method rather than the result. The primary purpose of the 5S method is the elimination of the waste.

5S eliminates waste

A clutter and disorganized work environment leads to many different types of waste.
  • Waste of Motion…The  searching of items, equipment and supplies
  • The waste of Movement…Moving items , equipment and supplies to where you need them for your work
  • The waste of Inventory from overstocking of items equipment and supplies due to the inability to find what you need in your workplace.
  • The waste of space for storage of unnecessary items, supplies and equipment.

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More importantly 5S reduces Errors and Injury

  • Errors resulting from selecting using the wrong item (drug, order form, equipment).
  • Errors resulting form using equipment that is improperly working
  • Injuries resulting from equipment and supplies left in walkways, or unsafe locations.
  • Ergonomic injuries to workers sustained from reaching, and moving supplies and equipment.

In addition to the increased efficiency from this reduction of waste there is an important impact on error prevention. Having a work environment where every thing has a place, it’s in the correct place, and is correctly labeled contributes to a safe working environment.

All of the wasteful actions mentioned above and even more can be minimized and even eliminated by applying the 5S method to organize your workplace.

Anyone can implement the 5S method. You can apply the 5S method to n entire clinic an exam room, a supply room, an office space. The possibilities are endless, as this method is useful anywhere items, supplies or equipment need to be stored for use.


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