5S Audit Checklist: Everything you need to know

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Lean manufacturing has many schools of thought. It can follow from 5S, kaizen, gemba, Kanban, heijunka, and poka-yoke. These have since transitioned to all types of businesses and organisations. For example, properly implementing 5S leads to having clean, unobstructed, organised workspaces.

5S audits, traditionally done on paper, have embraced the digital age, which helps to capture those initial data sets more accurately. This is inclusive of highly detailed images and explanations that can lead to easier implementations of any improvements, streamlining the process.

There’s no need for any type of audit, even the 5S audit, to be something to loathe or fear. We’re going to take the time here to break down exactly what this audit is all about and how you can best prepare yourself for this audit when the time comes. Preparation for this audit is also a good spot check to help with seeing if everything else is running smoothly as well.

Many may associate audit with a negative connotation to prepare for. Still, when it comes to 5S, it’s actually quite a useful tool that birthed the concept of just-in-time (JIT) Manufacturing. It’s a lean operational methodology created in Japan by the Toyota Motor company. This helps to be extremely efficient and produce only exactly what is needed when it is needed. That right away can highlight many benefits.

We created a basic 5S audit checklist and report that provides a structured way to audit your operations and standard procedures, according to the 5S principles.


Tablet frontline worker

So what does 5S stand for?

It’s actually five different categories, and the audit itself is a set of questions that fall under each category. It’s been transposed from the original Japanese, which was also 5 different S-based words. When fully implemented, run, and audit checked, it will lead to a much more improved workspace and high-quality production line. That’s exactly how it works too. A better work environment subsequently leads to enhanced operations. With streamlined and improved operations, it’s also easier to implement a higher-quality product.

Sort (Seiri) – This is all about working with what is needed and minimising waste. Organise and sort through all the equipment, tools, machinery, and even furniture and workstations that are being used in an area. Then, determine what needs to be removed since it’s a nice to have versus what needs to be kept. Only required items should be in a working environment.

Set in Order (Seiton) – Once everything is decided upon for what overall equipment will be used, label this equipment. It should be easy to reference and identity for anyone that ends up in the workstation. Also, proper storage procedures should be implemented for these equipment items, so there’s no mess at the workstation.

Shine (Seiso) – It’s clear that a clean workstation can lead to enhanced positive moods. This can also lead to improved output and performance. This part is about keeping the workstation and surrounding areas clean. It’s not just a proactive approach to cleaning but also performing scheduled consistent maintenance checks on equipment as needed, so everything is in prime condition. The flow is also important, so these areas to get to should also be free from obstructions or obstacles.

Standardise (Seiketsu) – don’t make a process for each workstation. Instead, get an overall standard operating procedure for all 5S-related tasks. This uniform approach will help train new employees fast and will help old employees who transition to new areas already know what is in store for them related to 5S. This is also about the standardisation of proper storage of this equipment for easy access.

Sustain (Shitsuke) – Just as you want to have a consistent maintenance schedule for your equipment, you want to also have a clear and consistent approach to this methodology. Make sure to be able to answer the 24 questions associated with an audit routinely and consistently run internal 5S audits to ensure that everything is in working order. This is a great way to implement improvements within the system, which is where 5S is so flexible. You do not want to simply implement this one time and then look back at it only a few years later. This is a growing methodology that needs refinement and input to work.

How to approach implementing 5S and passing the 5S audit in your company

First of all, 5S appears deceptively simple, but a 5S audit is really more than just a quick check of a process. There’s a systematic approach to a 5S audit with a clear framework and set conditions to pass. It’s also less about failing the 5S audit, but it’s more about finding areas of improvement for the parts of the process that could use it. It is also meant to see the current working conditions, so it’s best to try to implement a 5S methodology from the get-go.

Take an iterative approach and take the time to craft a plan. Look for quick wins where there is waste. Do standard optimisations that don’t need to follow a methodology. If there’s a problem, don’t just try to solve it, but find out what is at the root cause. This will help you mould a more inquisitive approach to the overall process and develop standards that prevent waste or problems.

Then it’s all about taking the right type of action. Since you know what 5S is all about, do a before and after. First, take photos of what the workspace areas currently look like, and then follow the five steps above. Afterwards, if you take a photo of the workspace, you’ll already see a massive difference, and that can be both a use case and motivation to continue with the overall process.

If you notice a lack of buy-in or other types of problems that make it difficult to implement this methodology, remember this is a continuous effort similar to the Kaizen thought process of continuous improvement. You don’t need to find every single solution every time with the first run-through. Regardless you’re going to have to monitor the overall standardisation, and you may realise even those areas you thought were optimised could still benefit from another internal audit. Then you can tackle the larger problems and issues.

What are the benefits of 5S?

While improvement optimisation may seem like common sense to many, some might say that following a set standard and template for operational efficiency may be asking for more work than its worth. That can be a difficult question to answer for some, but regardless, if there’s already a question of the total efficiency of the workplace, whether in production or manufacturing, then preparing to pass a 5S audit will only help you and your overall process.

Complete company buy-in – often, organisations don’t realise that getting the company involved in a process improvement, especially such a sophisticated one as the 5s audit process, can boost morale. It shows that everyone is in the process together and that they are individually and collectively responsible for producing those clean workplaces and providing efficiencies through common actions.

Cost Savings – The first cost savings comes from the downsizing for storage that comes with a proper 5S audit. With fewer excessive tools needed and more organisation, it’ll be possible to store everything in much smaller conditions. In addition, it helps to prevent injuries by putting equipment away when not in use and gets people moving faster as they aren’t detouring due to obstacles.

Safer work environment – not only is there less to trip over, but a clean and organised workspace means better quality equipment and overall safety standards that are naturally implemented. This also occurs because the equipment, especially highly sophisticated machinery, is part of that cleaning and maintenance process. Having those consistently checked to ensure they are operating in their prime helps to reduce malfunctions and thus helps to reduce also the possibility of accidents occurring.

Get ahead of the game

Allow yourself and your company to implement this waste-free and efficient model. You’ll be able to pass every 5S audit that comes your way, and your company will only continue to benefit from it and improve.

A great way is to focus on the advantages of a digital 5S audit. By using the Azumuta’s 5S Audit Checklist App, you can Incorporate a audit schedule to ensure your shopfloor is always checked as per regulations. In addition, companies can take the systemic approach necessary for these audits much more efficiently. Capturing images and data points can be done faster and easily shared with the relevant stakeholders. It will also ensure that the checklist can be tracked easier and help with productivity improvements and create order throughout your operations. In addition,

This will, in turn, reduce any inventory or time waste, as well as work on preventing and decreasing workplace injuries. Through the use of this digital format, there’s no need for extensive physical paperwork, and you can focus on the continuous optimisation portion of 5S rather than the administrative portion. Then the audit results can easily be archived in secure anti-tamper methods.

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