Japanese 5S management system

Japanese '5S system' in an aluminium foundry - better control, fewer injuries

The Problem

A large aluminium foundry identified slips and trips as being a significant risk to employees. This was mainly due to poor housekeeping and poorly maintained machinery leaking oil etc onto the floor. Realising the scale of the problem the company set about implementing a programme of cost effective improvements based on a Japanese system of workplace controls.

The Solution

Ensuring that pedestrian routes are unobstructed

Ensuring that pedestrian routes are unobstructed.

The size of the premises meant that improving housekeeping would not be an easy task. However the company was able to make substantial improvements by implementing the '5S Philosophy'. The system is based on 5 Japanese words which when translated mean Sort, Set in order, Shine, Standardise and Sustain. Once implemented, the system aims to eliminate unnecessary items from the workplace, improve order and tidiness (making sure everything has a home), maintain a clean workplace, ensuring that a workable system is in place and that these improvements are sustained.

In addition to the obvious improvements in housekeeping, savings were also made as fewer items were lost. Obsolete equipment was more likely to be discarded thus increasing storage capacity. In addition the company reduced slipping and tripping hazards by removing training cables, demarcating pedestrian routes, introducing non-slip surfaces and reducing walkway contamination at source.


 Non-slip floor covering on walkways

Non-slip floor covering on walkways

The company have been using the 5S system as part of a 'Total Productive Maintenance' system and this has evolved over the past 8 years. Although it has been difficult to quantify, the benefits of using 5S are apparent.

  • Clutter is removed, tripping hazards are eliminated and the risk of slipping reduced.
  • Plant and equipment is cleaner. Maintenance problems can be identified at an earlier stage thus reducing production downtime due to mechanical breakdown.
  • Tools and equipment are placed in an ergonomic position to help reduce strains and fatigue.
  • Duplication is avoided as every team takes responsibility for its own equipment thus making savings by not purchasing or keeping excess equipment. In addition it is less likely that equipment is lost or 'goes missing' because of improved and 'visible' storage.
  • The operation gives the impression that everything is under control and this has a good impact with customers and visitors. Everybody takes responsibility for the cleanliness of their work area and hence no need for a special clean before major visits.


Everything in its place.

Everything in its place

It is clear that by successfully implementing better standards of control over the workplace and it condition the risks of slipping and tripping can be reduced. However there are other noticeable benefits. Financial savings can be made by improving maintenance and reducing production downtime. Working days lost due to injury from slipping and tripping accidents are reduced. This company also reported an increase in morale and consequently productivity, as it was clear that employees appreciated the improvements made to their work environment.

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