Why do I need 6S?

You may have 5s or 6S being discussed and wonder, “What is 6S?“, take a minute to read our companion blog. We define 6S as a Lean process improvement technique that aims to optimise efficiency in the workplace. So now you know what 6S is, now you may be asking yourself “WHY do I need 6S?”.
The subject of this blog is a description of some of the benefits 6S brings to people in all work situations.

It is the basis for all process improvement.
Implementing 6S sets the minimum standard for expected performance, the baseline.
Once the baseline has been established it is enhanced via the process of Continuous Improvement.
The 6S audit process is a major source of improvements facilitating continuous improvement.

It reduces costs by eliminating wastes.
In the initial stages of implementation, 6S is used to eliminate or at least significantly reduce the wastes of MOTION and TRANSPORT. This is achieved by improving the layout of the workplace to make everything easier to find and use.
An examination of the process performed in the workplace should be completed when considering how the workspace is laid out. This is an opportunity to take unnecessary steps, streamlining processes.
6S can also be employed to reduce INVENTORY, for example, the SORT step, applied correctly, will ensure obsolete or out-of-date components with closing shelf life (e.g., chemicals or batteries) are disposed of.
6S also reduces INVENTORY by removing excess or damaged tools or equipment from the workplace.

It drives for fewer injuries, promoting safety.
We stress SAFETY FIRST when we talk about 6S which means that everything in the workplace is safe and fit-for-use.
For example, there are no-slip or trip hazards such as extension leads trailing across floors, no risks such as broken electrical sockets, no overloaded sockets or extension leads, fire extinguishers are clear and ready for use.

It improves QUALITY by reducing defects.
The quality of the work produced is improved by only having the materials, tools and equipment needed to produce the work.
This reduces the opportunity for error which reduces DEFECTS improving the quality of the work produced.

It improves delivery performance by reducing delays.
Streamlining processes, improving workplace layouts and reducing the opportunity to produce defects reduces delays in the work production process, improving delivery performance.

It supports other Lean initiatives such as JIT, TPM, Quick Changeover.
As already stated, 6S helps set the baseline for performance. It is part of stabilising existing processes. Once the stabilising phase is complete, then other appropriate Lean tools can be employed to improve the baseline.

It allows for increased growth through competitive advantage.
The cumulative effect of the points noted above is on overall improvement in performance, getting more out of the existing resources, enhancing competitiveness and allowing for increased growth.

The real benefit is that implementing 6S is should make your job easier. You should be the one to specify how your workplace is set up. You define what you need, you specify where you need things to be. Think about how you can reduce the wastes of MOTION, TRANSPORT and INVENTORY by re-designing your workspace.

One vital point not mentioned so far is that commitment from management is essential. 6S should not just be the “flavour of the month”, if the decision is made to implement 6S then management needs to allow people time to work 6S into their daily routines. Consider how you can use the 6S methodology to reduce the number of times the piece of work (component, part, paper file, digital file) must be touched (again MOTION and TRANSPORT).

Finally, just a reminder of the concept of Right-First-Time, one of the central ideas underpinning Lean. This refers to the concept of doing the job once only and correctly the first time.  When people are “under pressure” they rush to do the job and may not do it correctly. They don’t have time to do it right the first time, but they always seem to be able to find the time to repeat the task or rework it!


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