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A look at the 5S Method to lean collision center implementation

Friday, November 2, 2018 - 07:00
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Approaching lean thinking for the first time can be overwhelming – with a variety of strategies, guides and workshops, it can be difficult to know where to start. To begin, all lean thinking incorporates a solid foundation in standardization, visual control and clear communication. One of the most basic and commonly used lean methods in collision centers is the 5S Method. 5S is a valuable tool which, when implemented effectively, leads to continuous improvement, consistent quality, cost reduction and a safe work environment.

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"5S" finds its origins in Japan, and stands for five (5) Japanese words that start with the letter 'S': An equivalent set of five 'S' words in English have been adopted. These are:

  • Sort
  • Set
  • Shine
  • Standardize
  • Sustain

Each step is designed to promote habitual actions that create consistent quality, reduce waste, standardize processes, implement visual control and boost employee satisfaction in the shop. When the steps are instituted correctly, they build on each other to form a sustainable, long-term model for lean operations. To maximize effectiveness, take time to consider how to best implement the following.

The first step in the 5S Method is Sort, which focuses on minimizing clutter — seen here — in the workplace. Begin by removing all items except the bare essentials.

Sort is a fundamental step when first applying the 5S Method to daily shop operations. It focuses on minimizing clutter in the workplace. Begin by taking inventory and removing all items not needed for current production operations, leaving only the bare essentials behind. While it may be difficult to purge the excess items, a good rule of thumb is “when in doubt, throw it out.” This will provide a clean slate, so the 5S Method has room to grow.

Next, Set everything in proper sequence for productivity. Once the unneeded items are disposed of, the remaining items should be arranged with ease of use and the flow of the workspace in mind. Label inventory and tools and put them away in designated spaces so they can be easily found by the entire staff. Some shops also paint the floors in order to physically designate important areas. This step is different for every collision center, as unique challenges arise from the resources on hand. Consider which tools and items are used the most, the sequence of the shop’s processes and the layout of the facilities available. Often, the simplest solutions are the best solutions.

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