3It’s a competitive world out there, but for welding, metal fabrication and machining shops, it’s more than just a competitive space – it’s crowded. That’s why the more successful shops, like
Decimet Sales Inc. (DSI), look for ways to differentiate themselves from the competition while maintaining quality and staying competitively priced. One way that DSI differentiates is by using the 5S method for workplace organization.
Does keeping an organized workplace really create a competitive advantage? DSI believes it does and here are the reasons why.
First, the 5S method for workplace organization is a systematic approach to higher productivity. Top productivity means producing more in less time and that translates into satisfied customers. If DSI customers can get their welding and fabrication projects in on time and within budget, a relationship of trust is built. That’s a much-needed differentiator in a crowded industry.
Secondly, the 5S method leads to lower costs. When costs are reduced while maintaining product quality, savings can be passed on to the customer and that helps build a relationship of trust.
Additionally, the 5S method can help DSI move toward higher quality, increased safety and improved employee satisfaction. When employees feel safe and satisfied, turnover is reduced and welding and fabrication production increases. Management can focus on more important tasks rather than spending hours finding new welders, interviewing applicants and training new employees.
DSI history with 5S
The benefits of the 5S method are numerous and help differentiate DSI as a great choice for welding, metal fabrication and CNC machining services. But this has not always been the case.
Years ago, there had been a robust 5S program at DSI, but it began to backslide as the champions of the program left the company. Because employees were no longer being trained in the 5S method, they slowly slipped back into bad habits: work area clutter accumulated, safety hazards appeared, maintenance issues rose to unmanageable levels and efficiency dipped to its lowest level.
With camera in hand, a management team took a Genba walk around the production floor. (Genba is a Japanese term that means “the actual place.”) During this one walk, 174 issues were documented as problematic but easily fixable.
Max Foster, the DSI controller who had been trained in lean manufacturing and the 5S method, led the way in implementing a new training program. “One of the primary reasons we implemented 5S at DSI was to decrease waste,” he says. “Employees spend far too much time searching for things when there is disorganization.”
So, what is the 5S method and how can it be instrumental in improving a company’s competitive advantage?
The 5S method explained
The 5S method was first industrialized by the Toyota Motor Co. in the 1970s. It can be identified as one of the techniques used to enable just-in-time or lean manufacturing, which reduces
time in the manufacturing process or the response times between supplier and customer. The philosophy behind the method aims to eliminate all distractions, messes, clutter and waste in the production process so that the value to products and services can be improved and increased.
If implemented correctly with proper training, the five main elements to the 5S method can transform a welding and fabrication shop into a safer and more productive facility. The elements are very practical and fairly easy to implement.
Sort: With this first element, a value is placed on all items that take up space in the work area. Any welding tool, material, machinery, equipment or other item not needed for the current production in the applicable area is eliminated. This creates a work space free of clutter and provides the groundwork for all other elements.
When items are in question, the red tag method can be applied. This involves putting a red tag on the item and placing it in a designated “red tag” area. If the item hasn’t been used in a determined amount of time, one month for example, then it can be eliminated or stored.
Set in order: With this element, all things necessary to complete the current production are put in a strategic or logical place. These items should be easy to store, identify, access and return to their proper home. The main key is standardization. If items are used together, they should be stored together. Other standardization options may include storing items in priority order or putting more frequently used items closest to the user, labeling items and a host of other guidelines that may apply.
One additional consideration is to identify anything that can cause waste, which can appear in many different forms. For example, defects, wait times, additional steps and motions, excessive inventory, overproducing or extra processes, transportation or under-utilized skills can all produce some form of waste.
Shine: Keeping the workplace cleaned daily is the third element of the 5S method. It is such a simple concept but easily overlooked and forgotten when production gets busy. Clean welding equipment, machines and work areas create an inviting environment for employees and make them invested as they take ownership of their area.
Shine also includes inspection and preventative maintenance. The goal is to have all equipment clean and in top working order to keep it running longer. This means safer work environments with fewer injuries and insurance claims. In addition, there will be fewer equipment breakdowns. Breakdowns and investment in repair maintenance, parts and new equipment are expensive to say the least.
Standardize: The goal of standardizing is to systemize the 5S elements so that one-time tasks can be turned into lasting habits. Creating an ordered standard procedure using posted schedules and checklists can help ensure the elements of 5S are carried out daily. Visual charts and posters are great tools that help remind employees that a system is in place. Standardized procedures create uniform order and greater productivity.
Sustain: This last element of the 5S method should be designed to keep employees involved, motivated and focused on 5S, which keeps them on track to greater productivity. Prolonged training and concrete steps must be taken with everyone, including managers, to make 5S a long-term program so that it becomes part of the business culture rather than a one-time procedure. When 5S becomes part of the culture, employees stop cutting corners, which leads to a host of other positive results like increased efficiency and productivity.
Safety as No. 6
Some businesses include safety as a sixth element for workplace organization that may be referred to as 6S. This element
helps to guide management and employees in reducing or mitigating risk and injury. Safety may include incorporating ergonomics into work areas, marking potentially hazardous work areas with signs and labels, and taping off intersections between forklifts and pedestrians. If the workplace has hazardous risks due to the layout or equipment setup, steps should be taken to eliminate those risks. If an accident occurs, management should consider why it occurred and if any part of the 5S method should be changed to reduce or eliminate the risk of future accidents.
5S works and makes a difference when everyone is accountable. Both manager and employee have an integral part in making it work once the decision has been made to make the 5S method part of the business culture.
DSI knows the importance of 5S and works every day to sustain it as part of the company culture. This means customers reap the benefits of choosing a partner that operates with greater efficiency, higher productivity and lower costs.