One of the most important strategies for manufacturing processes

In previous articles, we have talked a lot about Toyota and its amazing production system. For decades, this company has been developing different innovation methodologies to be more and more competitive in the market. These techniques have involved a lot of elements and procedures, letting Toyota be one of the most competitive organizations in the car industry in the world. Moreover, these procedures and methods are not only used for the car industry, they have also been used in multiple business fields, like manufacturing, retail, technology, among others.

To understand some concepts to be mentioned in this article, we must first understand an important concept which is very related to Toyota and its production philosophy: Lean Manufacturing.

Lean Manufacturing

In other posts, we have mentioned the term Lean Production as one of the most important concepts for today’s manufacturing companies. Through it, organizations can improve their production processes, avoiding those things that do not add value to customers, besides, this methodology lets them focus on those elements which are really important for clients needs.

The Lean Manufacturing model was developed by Taiichi Ohno, an engineer from Toyota who wanted to increase the quality of their products. His methodology has seven principles, which have higher usage for today’s organizations.

  1. Customers do not want specific products or services; they want solutions for their particular needs.
  2. Everything within a process could be improved. This methodology seeks for constant enhancement to benefit customers.
  3. To produce what is really needed, nothing more, nothing less to avoid overproduction.
  4. Waste reduction. That is to say, elements and components in the manufacturing processes which increase costs for the company.
  5. Root problems solution. That is to say, companies must identify their production problems, to solve them proactively and not reactively.
  6. A long term relation with providers is crucial because it is an excellent way to share information, risks, and costs.
  7. Flexibility in production quantities.

Having this context clear, we can then talk about an important concept highly related with Lean Manufacturing and Toyota; The 5 S.

Related: What you need to know about Lean Manufacturing by David Kiger

The 5 S strategy

This strategy was also developed for Toyota and its main purpose is to organize and parameterize its production processes. This approach is focused in five Japanese terms, all of them related to order and discipline.

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Image courtesy of Florence Ivy at Flickr.com
  • Seiri: this concept means to organize. Lean Manufacturing and Toyota production methodologies are all based on organization and order in the workplace. A well-organized working space lets companies and their workers know what they need for a particular process and what is considered useless in it. In other words, Seiri term refers to all the activities which organize every element and concept present for the proper and successful development for a specific task.
  • Seiton: this Japanese word means systematization and classification. Every needed component in a certain procedure should be located where it has to be, so it can be found in an easier way. In addition, all these items must be correctly named and signalized, letting workers and operators distinguish better and simpler what they require for a certain activity.
  • Seiso: this word meaning is to clean. A clean workspace facilitates tasks and activities, besides, reduce production risks, making it more secure and safer. Seiso concept also refers to those activities that preserve processes uncontaminated and uncorrupted. This last part is very important for industries like food, medicine, healthcare, among others.
  • Seiketsu: this term means simplification and is formed by the three mentioned concepts. Put differently, Seiketsu pursues the correct implementation in a simpler way of those referred terms for the 5 S strategy.
  • Shitsuke: means discipline. Without this concept, the other four would be useless. One of the most important elements for the successful in Japanese companies like Toyota is discipline. It is one of the most important characteristics in their organizations. Shitsuke seeks for the correct implementation of every one of the other S in the 5 S strategy, allowing Lean Manufacturing work in the best and proper manner.

The 5 S strategy purpose

The main purpose of this strategy is to reach the maximum efficiency possible in every stage for every process. In other words, this tactic seeks principally to optimize in the best and the accurate way all the procedures that are present in the production chain, allowing to companies to manufacture better products, solving what they customer really needs.

Another important purpose of this remarkable strategy is that employees get a high level of belonging because they feel more important and transcendental in the manufacturing processes. This means costs reduction, due to the savings promoted by the workers to help the organization. The 5 S approach is not only focused on processes and methodologies, it is also dedicated to motivating and involve employees and operators, which are finally those who make possible the develop of a certain task or activity.

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