Lean manufacturing is a system that attempts to eliminate every energy or resource that is wasted on a goal other than the creation of goods or value.  The system is most famously implemented by Toyota and has spread to countless businesses around the world.  In lean manufacturing each task is standardized to maximize efficiency and allow for constant improvement and streamlining of workflow.  Such economy of movement and energy also leads to far safer working environments, which, aside from the obvious benefits, also can save each business thousands of dollars. 

One of the cornerstones of lean manufacturing is the 5s system.  This is the step-by-step process by which a business can organize and streamline.  Huge businesses such as factories, warehouses, and shipyards have the most to gain from a 5s system, but all businesses will benefit from such a lean implementation.  The five s’s are: Sort, Set in order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain.  The basic steps they represent when implemented are:

Sort:  In lean manufacturing it is not only important to have the right tools for the job, but to only have the tools necessary to complete the job.  Extra tools not only take up valuable storage space and make it more difficult to find the tool needed, but clutter work areas and pathways creating unnecessary hazards.  All tools that are necessary to production will be stored.

Set In Order:  Organization should be designed to maximize workplace efficiency; floor marking tape (a lean manufacturing staple) should be used to designate pathways, destinations, and direction of workflow.  Equipment and tools should be organized so that they are easy to access from each station that needs them, and so that there is enough of each tool that each of these stations can be using them at once.

Shine:  Proper maintenance begins with thorough and regular cleaning.  Cleaning not only keeps equipment and tools in the best shape possible, it also allows for early recognition of flaws and defects.  Replacing and fixing these parts before they cause problems can save countless thousands of dollars while being crucial to workplace safety.  Regular cleaning also prevents a commonly avoided task from every becoming too daunting. 

Standardize: Many businesses implement the first three steps when they first open or start production, but, without top to bottom use of the system, it quickly unravels.  Standardization results in well-documented and clearly laid out steps for each task that are a definitive resource for any question or deviation.  In these steps improvements to processes will be recorded, and checklists that outline proper scheduling, assigning, and performing of maintenance will be provided.

Sustain:  Without sustaining the system there is little benefit to taking the time and the money to implement 5s in the work place.  Each step should be completed in the same way every single time, with deviations being regarded as unacceptable.  This does not mean that punitive action should be taken against those who deviate, as such measures only encourage individuals to hide errors and malfunctions.  Instead, regular audits are recommended to ensure a system’s implementation in every level of production.  During these audits, tasks are evaluated and analyzed while individual’s suggestions for improvement are carefully weighed and considered.  These audits are crucial as they provide the primary way to monitor efficiency of and constantly streamline any business.