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Leveraging 5S + Kaizen

3 min read

Kaizen and 5S are two different concepts that have a lot in common. Understanding what each of them are will help you to determine which one should be used in which situations. Many people make the mistake of thinking that a facility should use either Kaizen or 5S. The reality is, however, that in many situations it is actually best to use both of them Implementing Kaizen plus 5S in one facility will help you to improve many different areas and the benefits can compound on each other. Take some time to read through this article to learn more about what each of them are separately, and the benefits of using both.

What is Kaizen?

Kaizen is a philosophy that is focused on helping companies improve their productivity and quality over the course of time. The term is Japanese and means improvement for the better. This is often translated to ‘continuous improvement’ when used by companies in this way. The idea is that there is always room for improvement in any organization. Even when things are going well, it should still be a priority to find improvement opportunities

There are many different ways that improvement can be made within a facility. This will include eliminating waste, improving supply chains, creating more efficient procedures, and much more. The main thing to keep in mind is that no matter the size of the improvement, it is always a good idea to take steps toward perfection. A change that makes even a small reduction in waste, for example, will add up to a significant benefit over the course of years. In addition, making small improvements will often help to reveal additional changes that can be made to further benefit the facility.

What is 5S?

5S is also focused on making improvements within a facility. This strategy uses five different steps, each of which begin with an S. Like Kaizen, 5S began in a Japanese facility and has since been used in companies around the world. The name 5S comes from the fact that the five steps all begin with the letter S. In English these are sort, straighten, shine, standardize, and sustain. Some facilities will add in a sixth S for safety as well.

Each of these concepts are used to identify areas where the company can eliminate waste and improve efficiency. Sort, for example, means to make sure everything in the facility has its proper place. This will help keep things from getting lost while also reducing the wasted time people spend looking for something that is out of place.

How Kaizen and 5S are Conducted

While these two systems certainly have a lot in common, there are some key differences that need to be noted. Understanding these differences will help to illustrate how they can be used together for the long term benefit of the facility. With Kaizen, managers and employees look at specific activities that are done and break them down into small processes. They can then look at each process to see where improvements can be made. By going through this process it is often possible to streamline tasks so they take less time, produce less waste, and are able to be completed more efficiently.

With 5S, on the other hand, improvement is generally made by making changes to the way things are organized and maintained. As mentioned above, the first step in this is making sure everything in the facility is properly sorted. 5S continues to make sure that everything is properly organized, cleaned and maintained, standardized, and finally that any improvements are sustained over time. The 5S methodology looks at concepts that can be applied throughout the organization.

Implementing Kaizen and 5S

Notice that Kaizen is primarily focused on specific processes at any given time. If improvements need to be made to two different processes, they will require separate Kaizen events to take place. 5S is more focused on strategies that can apply across many different areas. Since these two systems work very differently toward the same goal of improving the facility, they can both be used at the same time.

It is not at all uncommon for a company to begin using both of these strategies at roughly the same time. When a company decides that they want to begin the process of making improvements in the facility, they will turn to these two common solutions. Both Kaizen and 5S are also commonly used strategies within the overall Lean manufacturing methodologies. This further makes it a good idea to implement both of these two systems at the same time.

Whether you have already been using one of these solutions, or you are just learning about the improvement opportunities available, it is a good idea to use these complimentary systems. In the end, it will help to eliminate waste, streamline production, and of course, improve the bottom line.