Machine shop housekeeping

The 5 most important items (besides safety) to address in machine shop housekeeping

Bulwark Acquisition Uncategorized 5 Comments

Machine shop housekeeping is a constantly evolving process, with new best practices being introduced as we learn more about how we can keep our employees safe while running at optimal efficiency. The innovative 5S system, refined by the Japanese, provides five cornerstones which can be implemented to achieve efficiency and impact the bottom line, even with fewer employees available.

5S stands for: Sort, Set in order, Shine (clean), Standardize and Sustain, with the final S relating to Safety. We look at the 5 most important items to address in your machine shop housekeeping. Deceptively simple, this method has shown surprising improvements in productivity, profitability and efficiency time and again.

1. Sort:
In this stage, the goal is to remove all unnecessary clutter from the workplace – leaving behind only the tools and equipment that actively contributes towards production and efficiency. In a process called red-tagging, a team goes through all the tools, equipment and material at a facility, and asks the simple question of the workers: do you need this to do your job on a daily basis?
If the answer is no, the item is red tagged and stored away (it’s a great opportunity to do a thorough stock take as well!)

2. Set in Order:
This process involves setting things out and labeling them all in a manner in which they are easy to find – and easy to return to their correct place. Incorporating visual cues that tell you exactly what a tool is and how to use it are added – anyone should be able to tell at a glance what something is and how it should be used for work.

This process includes setting up simple and organized storage, arranging tools and equipment so that the most frequently used ones are closest to the employee who needs them, and keeping everything visible. Drawers or toolboxes which can conceal tools are done away with – you shouldn’t need to have to open something to know if the item you need is there or not. If applicable to the working environment, adding taped areas to the floor is also encouraged to denote where machinery is meant to be and where the safe walkways are. Clear signage should denote all important information and potential hazards, as well as what the goals of each facility are.

3. Shine:
You wouldn’t want to find that your favorite restaurant’s kitchen is a mess, and the workplace is actually no different. While making sure everything is clean, tidy and shiny as new not only promotes a better work ethic and a sense of pride in your workers – it serves a very practical function too. In a spotless environment, potential leaks and wear and tear on machinery which could cause real problems are also much easier to sport before they become an issue. In the Shine stage, a regular cleanup time and process is implemented (at least once a day) and it is made clear who is responsible for cleanup and restocking, and checklists are created to make sure the system is easy to stick to. Periodic inspections are also encouraged to keep up the high standard.

4. Standardize:
During this stage, you set up a methodology where you can continue to maintain the first three steps on an ongoing basis, company-wide. By ensuring that the whole company is required to conform to the new standards, it is easier for employees to maintain them and get into the habit of using them. The same systems like common color coding and best practices should be used throughout the whole company so that every employee is familiar with them.

5. Sustain:
This can be the tricky part. In order for implementing the 5S model to be successful and deliver an ongoing benefit, it is important that management remains firm and self-disciplined in making sure the standards are kept up. One failed attempt means employees are even less likely to stick with the new standards next time – so getting it right from the beginning and sustaining the 5S system is crucial.

To do this, the system needs to become part of the company culture. This can be achieved through delegating an executive ‘champion’ who is responsible for giving management feedback about the progress and maintaining of the system, or even having several champions across the different business units.

Periodic walkthroughs and inspections should be implemented to keep employees on their toes, and teams should be evaluated on their level of compliance – a bit of friendly competition never hurts in making workers more likely to keep up the good work!

With these 5 important housekeeping practices put in place and maintained – the result is not just a more productive and profitable business – it also means safer and more satisfied employees. So while it might seem a bit daunting from the outset, taking on the 5S challenge and keeping it up benefits everyone involved!


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