5 Benefits of Implementing 5S Audits at Your Plant


December 16, 2015

Layered process audit quality

“Try not to make 5S a goal in itself. … Focus instead on the leadership part, building the right discipline and culture in your organization towards the objective of 5S: Create, maintain, and improve an efficient workplace organization with high levels of visual control.” Torbjørn Netland, Associate Professor, Department of Industrial Economics and Technology Management, Norwegian University of Science and Technology

Those are words of wisdom from an in-depth article on 5S entitled “5S – We Are Doing It Wrong” by an associate professor at Norway’s NTNU Department of Industrial Economics and Technology. Although the benefits of implementing 5S audits in a plant are many, realizing them requires a plant-wide focus on cultural change. As Netland notes in the article, the objective of 5S audits goes beyond the practice into developing “high levels of visual control.”

What follows are two broad areas of ROI and safety that reveal five business and bottom line changing benefits of conducting 5S audits in the plant.

ROI Benefits of Implementing 5S Audits

When 5S audits are part of a lean culture and are accompanied by layered process audits (LPA) as just one example, a plant can realize greater ROI for its consistent efforts. Regular 5S audits deliver obvious benefits of revealing plant floor organization and cleanliness challenges before they become problems. The potential problems that are being averted are the first group of benefits that 5S audits bring through ROI:

  • Reduced production and machine failures/defects: Regular 5S audits in conjunction with regular LPA can make root cause analysis of potential machine, process, and production failures more effective. This is possible because they can reveal these problems that might be hidden by an unstructured workplace, as well as through visual inspection of a 5S-compliant workstation.
  • Reduced production process time: Implementation of 5S audits create a continuous improvement cycle whereby items that are used in the process are organized in a way that reduces access time in production as well as in and between storage/onboarding areas. The identification and proper placement of non-essential or out-of-place items from parts to boxes and scrap increases that production efficiency in terms of production cycle time. That means faster and more efficient production cycles for greater just-in-time flexibility as well as improved output and reduced waste. These benefits can come from: 
    • Crew-to-crew standardization
    • Decreased product changeover time
    • Consistent parts access in the production cycle

Safety Benefits of Implementing 5S Audits

Plant safety is a critical aspect of an efficient plant in which associated costs in terms of lost productivity, low morale due to safety concerns, and associated worker compensation can all conspire to take a plant further away from excellence. This is also an aspect in which implementing 5S audits at the plant can have a major impact. This can include:

  • Elimination of slips and falls due to compliance with cleanliness standards by immediately cleaning up spills.
  • Constant awareness of electrical, mechanical, or chemical hazards that would otherwise be potentially hidden by clutter.
  • Elimination of production area hazards through increased awareness. More than the elimination of clutter in the workplace, 5S is about creating a workforce aware of things as simple as how a bolt can become a projectile, or how it may not be scrap at all and but an indication of a loose production assembly, which in itself could lead to injury. 

Although there are countless resources that tout 5S audits, few take the time to show the benefits in terms that stakeholders can understand. High levels of visual control in a plant through a business culture that embraces the spirit as well as the “tools” of 5S audits brings tangible benefits. The 5S audit in conjunction with other lean tools such as layered process audit software and the resultant LPA checklists can make those benefits trackable.

This concept of creating a high level of visual control via 5S and 5S audits from Netland that began this post is really the root of these and numerous other benefits that 5S audits and LPAs can bring to the plant. When 5S audits are made part of a plant’s culture that is focused on embracing the benefits of visual awareness rather than just adherence to a set of rules, everyone in the plant benefits. This builds the foundation of a business cultural change in which everyone takes ownership of achieving manufacturing and product excellence.