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Looking for ways to improve your assembly process? - Try 6S

Posted by Michael Vest on Tue, Feb 20, 2018 @ 12:35 PM

I would say that most, if not all, manufacturers are continuously looking for ways to reduce waste and improve efficiency. If that describes you, I have a suggestion – adopt the 6S workplace organization method.

The steps I outline below are based on work done at our own manufacturing facility about four years ago after we found some inefficiency in the manufacturing assembly process. Since adopting the 6S principles, we measurably increased efficiency. And that’s not all. Customer feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Military, medical, and aerospace customers visiting the facility have commented that it is one of the cleanest facilities they have ever been in. And last but not least, insurance providers have complimented AMADA MIYACHI AMERICA on its safety protocols and improvements.

Take a look at these simple steps – I guarantee you can make them work for you.

What are all those “S”s?

The original five principles that make up the more familiar 5S workplace organization method originally popularized in Japan, and widely used in lean manufacturing, are Sort, Straighten, (or Set in Order) Shine, Standardize, and Sustain. They come from a list of five Japanese words that, transliterated into Roman Script, all start with the letter ‘S.’ The last S, added in recent years, is Safety. Safety sits above the other 5S principles. It involves looking back on the initiatives and processes developed and optimized and ensuring that they remain safe and are designed to minimize risk. 

Adopting the 6S principles to improve assembly

Sort – Begin by creating an index of all equipment necessary to assemble products on a daily basis. Remove all other equipment and store it elsewhere. One method is to use a red-tag system in which assemblers attached red 5S tags (see image) to any tool not used on a daily or weekly basis and place it on table specifically used to collect unused tools.

5S Red Tag


Straighten – Place matching tools and toolboxes in each work cell throughout the manufacturing area. Consider installing foam inserts with cut-out spaces for each tool into every drawer of every toolbox. That way, every tool has a specific spot in the toolbox where it can always be found if not already in use.

Toolbox with foam inserts

Shine – Make available brooms, dustpans, and broom closets, as well as battery-powered vacuum cleaners, to be distributed throughout the manufacturing workspace. Ask a custodial crew to periodically polish the manufacturing area floors.

Standardize – Consider the use of audible bell signals to let assemblers know when to clean their work cell. Sound the signal 5 minutes prior to each of the three work breaks and once 5 minutes prior to the end of the day. Place posters around the work areas like the one shown below to remind employees of their commitment to the 6S principles. 

6S Updated blog image. 12.13.17.jpg

Sustain – Provide training to make sure the efforts are sustained.

Safety – Many of the changes discussed will eliminate hazards and encourage a safety mindset. Other safety methods that can be considered as part of adopting 6S principles could include wearing steel-toed boots and reinforcing all your existing policies requiring the use of work gloves, safety glasses, and other personal protective equipment. Also, be sure to hold monthly training meetings on specific safety topics and consider hosting discussions to collect suggestions, ideas, and complaints pertaining to workplace safety.

Celebrate your positive results! 

Adopting 6S principles as part of your work culture can be extremely positive.  Follow the 6S principles outlined to make your workspaces and processes more efficient and effective.

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