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blog | May 05, 2013

What is 5S and How Does it Work with ERP?

505Two Complimentary Systems What is 5S? 5S is basically a method to organize a work area for efficiency and effectiveness. This method can be applied at any level of...

By WorkWiseSoftware

505Two Complimentary Systems

What is 5S?

5S is basically a method to organize a work area for efficiency and effectiveness. This method can be applied at any level of the business, but is currently used mostly in work areas on the plant floor.  The basic objectives are to review a work area, eliminate items that are not needed, organize the remaining items for maximum productivity, and keep the work area clean for safety and productivity. Other supporting objectives include ways to engrain 5S into the culture of the business, and then assuring it is sustained.

Benefits of 5S include:

Phases of 5S:

  1. Sort
  2. Set
  3. Shine
  4. Standardize
  5. Sustain

5S – Sort

This is the 5S phase where the work area is analyzed and each item (tool, gauge, supply, etc) is reviewed for the frequency of use.  A decision is made as to which items are necessary in the area, and which are not. This phase eliminates unnecessary items from the work area.

5S – Set

This 5S phase is often called “set in order”, and determines which item should be where.  More frequently used items should be placed closer with easier access.  The idea is organize for productivity and efficiency.  People are more productive and happier when they aren’t searching for items to complete their work.  This phase also includes the simplifying of the flow of work.  People shouldn’t be reaching or traveling far for items that are frequently used.

5S – Shine

Now that the area has been organized and structured, it becomes necessary to keep it clean.  Dirty tools cause problems such safety issues, incorrect readings (gauges), and dirty floors case accidents.  A regular schedule of cleaning activities needs to identified and followed.

5S – Standardize

The work area has been cleared of clutter, ordered for productivity, and regularly cleaned. It is now time to carry these processes to other similar areas of the plant.  Creating a standardized process across the plant, simplifies the training process, makes it easier to manage, and makes the ordering of supplies common.

5S – Sustain

As with any process, monitoring and enforcement are necessary to keep the process working.  Incentives, penalties or other methods are needed to ensure the process is in place and stays that way.

ERP as a 5S Process

In many ways, ERP is an implementation of the 5S methodologies. Let’s take a look:

5S – Sort

ERP brings together the right materials, and the right operation, all at the right time. This eliminates excessive inventory, and WIP and queue times at the operations.  The routing also establishes the optimal process to produce the product in the plant. All these work together to reduce the work in process both in the plant and at the work area. In addition, techniques such as Group Technology can be used to sort production schedules so that full advantage it taken of common machine, and material requirements.

5S – Set

ERP set standards for all the materials and processes in the plant. These standards represent the best benchmarks based on current factors.  ERP then prioritizes these materials and operations in the most productive way possible, and via the use of queue compression allows for flexibility needed to react to changes.

5S – Shine

ERP sets maintenance schedules to assure that all machines are properly serviced to increase their accuracy and uptime.  Preventative maintenance schedules also make sure that machines are cleaned, and prepared for optimal use, and by tying the PM schedule into the production schedule operation start and stop dates can take into account that schedule.

5S – Standardize

All activities of ERP are controlled by continually updated standards. Any activities that run outside of these standards are immediately brought to the attention of management. On key activities, KPI’s are set for focused monitoring of the most key activities throughout the business, such as late completion dates, excessive scrap, and labor inefficiencies.  ERP systems also offer business process recording functions that allow capture of exact shop computer functions, to allow use by upstream and downstream work areas.

5S – Sustain

ERP allows the continual monitoring, maintenance, and correction of all processes.  Performance management systems help to tie all these processes into strategic goals and results, making the entire business a 5S process.

5S and ERP as Complimentary Processes

Upon analysis, 5S and ERP are quite complimentary processes.  As mentioned in the previous section, ERP provides the infrastructure for using 5S at a high level.  But when you think about it, 5S also provides an extension beyond ERP down to a more detailed level. Usually, items in the work area are beyond the normal scope of ERP (with the exception of the man and machine).  Setting up standards and monitoring usage on each and every item would be cost prohibitive.  But setting up a standard environment and updating it periodically (not hour by hour in ERP) would not be cost prohibitive.  ERP works at a real time level that just would be impractical for supplies, tools, and other miscellaneous items. Yet 5S works well at that level. The conclusion: A full-fledged system would definitely include both.


5S is a visionary way to look at improving processes in your business. Combined with ERP, the potential is vast and extends across the entire business.  ERP, in essence, is an instance of implementing 5S, with its standards, monitoring and documentation of manufacturing processes.  And yet, 5S extends ERP to a level that was previously cost prohibitive, yielding a TOTAL 5S Environment.

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