Advanced 5S in Manufacturing

Advanced 5S in Manufacturing

Advanced 5S in Manufacturing

Advanced 5S in Manufacturing

5S – The age old concept that you know you should deploy in your workspace, however to spend the resources to get to a fully implemented 5S workspace seems out of reach and often unreasonable. I see this time and time again while leading 5S kickoffs for my current company. While most of the short term benefits to 5S are intangible, there’s a few key major benefits down the line that are well worth the trouble and resources.

In this post I want to show you some advanced concepts of what %s leads to, some benefits of implementing 5s in your manufacturing environment, and ideas on best practices. 

Motion Economy & 5S

Motion economy is a principle that follows up successful 5S implementation. Motion economy is essentially the idea that you should reduce wasted movements as much as possible in the workspace.

There’s specific ways to do this that we’ll cover below briefly, but to successful implement these ideas, your workspace first needs to be completely “5S-ed.”


Motion Economy 

Motion economy is to reduce wasted movements of the human body. You should be doing as much as you can, all at once. 

Let’s cover the basics briefly:

  1. How to use the human body
  • When performing an action, both hands should begin the motion at the same time
  • Two hands should not idle at the same time
  • Arms should move in opposite and symmetrical directions
  • Movements should be reduced to the lowest possible componenets to compelte the action effectively. (See the diagram below.)

Like 5S, this is something inherent to us whenever we think about it. I used an image of an iphone above to show a very important point. When is the last time that you thought, “Wow, using this iphone is really tiring me out.” Probably never has this occurred to anyone, at least not from muscle fatigue. This design was done intentionally by apple workers.

If you can simplify motions down to the smaller level of physical exertion, the better you make the lives of those running those machines. After successful 5S implementation, you should then begin to consider processes which use the upper end of the motion economy ladder. Try to simplify motions within your plant that involve shoulders, upper arm, and forearm movements. 

2. Momentum Utilization

  • Motion economy also emphasizes the usefulness of momentum in the workplace. Momentum is a powerful tool whenever it is used in our favor, when it isn’t, it’s often making numerous processes within the plant much more difficult for operators. 

Within the cable industry, I see this far too often. The number of times I’ve seen conductors spooled onto a reel on an elevated machine, then taken right back down to the ground for transfer is disheartening. 

Although not the easiest to implement, being able to conserve this momentum throughout a process is an advanced concept of 5S. If you’re able to eliminate unneeded movements, of catalyze movement with momentum, your process will benefit with productivity. 

  • Smooth continuous motions / free-swinging controlled motions are usually better

This goes hand in hand with the above, but if you’re able to use free swinging movement while conserving momentum (In a safe manner) then your process will ultimately benefit. 


Arrangement of Workplace 

The arrangement of the workplace is briefly covered within the 5S methodology. However, this step is critical enough to deserve a slow within the economy of motion step as well. 

Factory Conveyor line - Why placing things in proper places matters
Looking past the obvious

The hard part with the arrangement of workplace items is not placing tools in easy, best workflow allowing places. It is visualizing the things which aren’t already on the floor.

This step comes with experience, but the more good practices that you can share among facilities, the more likely you are to implement solutions which aren’t readily identifiable. 

Consider the following:

  • Is there a lot of operator movements occuring in a process – could some piece of equipment, shelving, etc. reduce these movements?
  • Is the material flow of the line efficient? If not, why?

Most importantly:

  • If you rebuilt this process, would you design it the same way again?

Hindsight is always 20/20. But there’s a concept in continuous improvement of 80/20. Sometimes we can do 20% of the work to redeem 80% of the rewards. Although the most efficient plants will redesign poor processes, baby stepping with the 20% of work is a great starting point.

Establish easy wins and use that continuous improvement momentum to continue throughout the plant. 

Tool Placement

When undergoing 5S, the concept may come up of placing tools in ideal operating levels. That is to say, placing tools within a working range that emphasizes good posture for an operator to use. 

With advanced 5S concepts, you should also consider the order in which these tools are used. What are the best sequence of motions that an operator should take? Particularly, it two operations can occur in any order, why has the operator decide to do one before the other? 

We often use this understanding of operators of the process to our advantage. If they always do one thing before another, perhaps there is a reason that we should exploit to our advantage and improve upon.  

Title image for 5S time conservation

Time Conservation 

The heart and soul of 5S and why we try to implement it in the first place: Time conservation.

From an advanced 5S point of view, what are we trying to do when it comes to time conservation?

  • Minimize temporary delays
  • Reduce machine idles
  • Execute simultaneous jobs

Minimize Temporary Delays

Seems easy right? Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t. The hard part in addressing this concept is the fact that we’ll never be able to think up all the sources of what causes a temporary delay. From equipment not being in the correct place, operator training errors, setup errors, raw material errors, etc.

What we can do in this case though is define an action plan should something happen on the line. A delay is only a delay if the operator remains idle. 

This is an important point that the most effective maintenance staffs take into account. A stellar PM, preventative maintenance, system will take advantage of machine downtime, even when unscheduled. They do this by having tasks readily available for given machines should a downtime event happen for whatever reason; raw material shortage, operator absence, etc. 

The same thing can be done for operators whenever they are on the machine. If a maintenance event is the cause of the downtime, you often have extended periods of a maintenance and engineering team trying to figure out the issue. In these cases you should have tasks readily available for your operators to do. 


Reduce Machine Idle

The same as reducing temporary delays, easier said than done right? Machine idle does not include machine downtime. This is time that your machine is in a production ready state and not operating. This occurs with raw material shortage, operator inefficiencies, machine tooling not available, etc. 

From my experience, the preparation of the process is critical. Since you’re reading this, I’ll assume that you’re in a manager position, so lucky you! Preparation is something that is influenceable by the standard work and operating instructions. The better you can manage operator downtime during process cycles, the better your machine idle time will be, and consequently your overall efficiency. 

Principles of Ergonomics - 5S in manufacturing
Principles of Ergonomics
Ergonomics is often an after thought when it comes to 5S. We think about a process, then we decide how the process should work, and then we consider how to place items in the optimal use position for an operator. 
Instead, we should try to consider the ergonomics of a process before deciding the layout of the process with the below principles. 
Maintain A Neutral Posture
Your body whenever working should be aligned and balanced. Maintaining alignment and balance in an operator reduces the overall stress of the operation on the operator and allows for longer exposure to the operation before tiring. 

Work in Power / Comfort Zone

The power/comfort zone is the zone in which most of the operational stress is minimized. This is the zon in between your shoulders and waste and close to the body. 

If you’re able to make most of the motions occur in the power zone of the operator, the stress is minimized. 

OSHA provides this image to illustrate the power zone of a person and also the danger zones. 

Identify processes in your process that occur in danger zones and try to relocate them to power zone operations. 

This zone is also called the “handshake zone.” In short, this is the area that a human can lift the most with the least amount of strain on the body. 

Allow for Movements and Stretching

A very interesting lesson that was passed on to me from my wife has stuck with me. Working out one day, I approached her and gestured that she should be impressed with the size of my bicep. 

She chuckled and said perhaps in her younger days she would be impressed – but now she’s invested in the long haul with me and only interested in how far I can stretch.

Her logic? Muscles fade, but stretching prolongs the usable life. 

As a manufacturing guy, I get it. It’s sexy to produce big numbers (like biceps), but if you’re not giving your operators the small breaks to walk and stretch, those production numbers come at a large expense and are unsustainable. 

You should also try to remove static loads in your process should you have any. This means, that if any point an operator is having to maintain a weight or pressure, you should  seek out equipment to mitigate this. Dynamic loads are okay, static loads are usually never okay. 

Reduce Excessive Force

Obviously, straining in a process is never good. Not for the operator, not for the process product, not for anyone. 

I’m sure you’ve all seen it if you’ve spent time in a manufacturing environment. There’s always that process that you have to get a little angry with to get it to work. These processes usually have a steel beam close by to beat it into place.

It works, sure. But keep in mind, that beating something into place is never an ideal situation, ever. 

Find areas in your process that require excessive force to function and dive into the root cause of why they exist in the first place. 

Along with removing excessive force from your process, you should also see how to reduce force from your other operations as well. The idea behind 5S is the make the process as simple and efficient as possible, from an organization standpoint and also from an effort point of view. 


Reduce Excessive Motions

Just like the above, you should attempt to remove excessive movements. This one pretty much speaks for itself, but think about movements that you could create tooling for. Can you combine tools into one so an operator doesn’t have to reach back to his workbench?


Minimize Contact Stress

Contract stress is any point in the process where an operator has to physically touch the process. Once automation takes over the manufacturing realm, the contact stress will be zero. An operator will never have to touch the line or the product, just the controls to the automation.

But, in the meantime, we can analyze each time an operator touches a product or line and try to minimize these events. 


Reduce Excessive Vibration

Vibrations cause a lot of problems on a manufacturing line. From creating leaks, increased maintenance issues, and vibrating operators, they can be the root cause of a lot of inefficiencies. You should try to find processes within your manufacturing line and mitigate the vibrations occur in these areas.


Provide Adequate Lighting

Ever stub your toe in the dark? This one speaks for itself. It is an injustice to your employees if the environment in which thy work is dimly lit. This creates all kinds of safety concerns within the process.

Not only does it create safety concerns – it hurts moral of the people working in that area. Increasing the lighting of an area may seem unnecessary and with no immediate returns, but it can be one of the biggest changes with the most intrinsic rewards. 

Mistake Proofing in Advanced 5S in manufacturing

Mistake Proofing in Advanced 5S 

“Poka-Yoke” or mistake proofing is the idea of eliminating the ability for a mistake to ever occur. 


We use this in processes with high deviation or error prone processes. That’s because something is causing these deviations or errors, but we often don’t know the root cause of these deviations. There’s a set of steps in implementing this in your process.

A. Create a Flow Chart of the Process

By creating a flow chart of the process, we can easily break down the process into small, bite sized chunks to analyze each section individually. Once we identify these chunks we can review each process for error points. 

These error points should be documented and carried into the second step.

B. For Each Error, Think of Remediation

Obviously, for each error the first line of defense should be how to completely eliminate the error from occurring in the first place. 

If an error is impossible to remove, you should then think about detection and minimization. Are there property in process checks to detect the error? Are there sensors which are worth the value of error detection on the market?

Once you know the problem exists, minimization is often a statistical process control operation in which process parameters and mapped and analyzed. 

C. Implement & Validate

Once you identify the problems, and think of the ways to remote them, you need to implement, record the steps, and validate with your results.

This is the most iterative process of the four. Be sure to document as you go and take lessons for the future. 

D. Settings & Regulation

Once you complete the process and either eliminate or remove the risk, be sure to change your machine settings and process parameters. 



Kaizen Approach

One of the most over used concepts in all of manufacturing. Believe me, I get it. But there’s some lessons that I’d like to emphasize with Kaizen.

A. Standardize so a process is repeatable & organized

When dealing with large businesses, it’s baffling to me the lack of documentation. It just isn’t a concept that exists in a lot of places. Why? Because production is more important in the beginning. 

Many production environments start with a process. Without a process, no business. No business, no money. That means that documentation and standardization among plants is often an after thought. 

Repeatability in process allows for problems to be addressed once, and only once. As you document the solutions to your machine, your business gets smarter and leaner, and thus more efficient. 

B. Focus on Measurability & Data driven action

How do you improve a process without data? You use the tribal knowledge of operators and engineers that a situation is “better” than what it was before. I love the saying “you should of seen in ___ months ago!”

Sure, improvements can be made without data, but to really improve a process you should use metrics to evaluate it. You have to fully understand the situation of a line before you’re able to drastically improve it. 

C. Comparing Results against Requirements

This is an interesting point in the Kaizen methodology. We often have the mindset of continuous improvement. Better and better and better. But sometimes the requirement is not there to support the financial, time, and effort investments into these processes. 

Kaizen makes us analyze, is it really worth it to do these improvements? What is the requirement for this process and is it worth the resources that I’ll have to spend to get it to the desired level? 

D. Continuous Improvement

You can always get better – but this is not to say continuous improvement on every line, but within the entire plant. There’s usually always a place that resources could be spent to improve a critical area. 

Build a mindset and a culture that promotes internal continuous improvement and reward those individuals that buy in to your culture. 

Advanced 5S in Manufacturing 

This article is far from complete, as there’s always ways to get better and better. If you have any comments or questions please let me know. If you think there’s something missing from the above post I’d be happy to include it too. 


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