At some point, all of us have been exposed to the K.I.S.S. principle of “keeping it simple, stupid”. It was actually integrated into the U.S. Navy design systems in the early 1960’s as a reminder that sometimes, and in fact most often, the simplest design is the most effective. Variations of the phrase include “Keep it simple, silly”, “Keep it simple and straightforward” and “Keep it small and simple”. In any variation, the point is the same.

In an era of quickly changing technology that includes the IoT, 3-D printing, robotics and continually evolving digital enhancements in manufacturing, the K.I.S.S. principle still has its place, as evidenced by some recent 5S events Wiley Metal has been exposed to that has helped us eliminate lost time, limit wasted motion and waiting.  When you drill down to the basics, it really is simpler than we often make it.

Let’s revisit these 5S principles and how they are put into to “motion” on the shop floor. We’ll also disclose our three basic takeaways from their implementation.

The 5S Principles

For those who may need a reminder, the 5S principles come from the Japanese words of seiri, seiton, seiso, seiketsu, and shitsuke. Roughly translated these words mean:

  1. Sort. This principle eliminates obstacles by sorting to only necessary tools and parts to complete the job at hand. It eliminates unnecessary materials and sorts to the primary items that will assist workers in getting the results necessary.
  2. Set. This ensures items are easily selected and prevents waste and time. Workstations are arranged so that tools and equipment are within close proximity. Most frequently used items are placed in the most easily accessible areas.
  3. Shine. Shine refers to keeping the area and items clean and ready to use. Cleaning should be a form of inspection, assuring machinery is in good condition, well-maintained and deterioration is minimized. This ensures a work area that is safe and comfortable to work in.
  4. Standardize. This establishes procedures that will ensure the implementation of the first three of the 5S procedures. It helps everyone understand their role and responsibilities in sorting, organizing and cleaning tools and equipment. It establishes consistent color coding that becomes a part of the daily routine along with audit checklists.
  5. Sustain. Many translate this from the Japanese to be “do without being told”. It is at once a commitment to established processes while being open to new opportunities and procedures. It involves self-discipline and vision.

Three Key Takeaways from 5S

To make K.I.S.S. even simpler, we’ve realized three major basic improvements from our 5S efforts. These include benefits from eliminating waste, minimizing waiting and reducing unnecessary motion.

In metal fabrication, eliminating, or at least minimizing waste, is critical. Even when waste can be recycled it still takes time, effort and resources. Waste remains expensive. Through implementation of 5S principles, we’ve discovered a better ability to minimize waste while improving workflow by limiting wait times between processes. Minimizing motion also greatly improves performance and productivity. It would be an exaggeration perhaps to describe the process as “effortless” but the improvements are noticeable and tangible. There is no question they are beneficial.

Of course, there is a critical place for technology and those in manufacturing must always keep our ears to the rails to let us know what’s ahead. But we shouldn’t forget the basic, simple procedures that can help us use our human resources more efficiently. The 5S system and what we can learn from it will remain a foundation for how we conduct business in our metal fabrication shop for the foreseeable future. Technology is unmistakably beneficial but we shouldn’t lose sight of the basics.