Top Tips for a 5S Engineering Workshop

Engineering Workshops come in all shapes and sizes and varying degrees of tidiness and organisation, however, most are not fit for purpose. A workshop that always looks dirty clearly needs 5S, but what If you see rows of shiny red tool boxes and clean benches, surely this does not need 5S? Just because a workshop is tidy, does not mean it is well organised. The fact that there is more than one toolbox tells you there is waste. As with all 5S, you have to start at the beginning and ask what tasks are performed in the workshop and how is it used as a base for engineering work elsewhere?

 

I have found that the starting position of most engineers when asked to organise their workshop is: It’s a workshop, it gets dirty; I haven’t got time to clean up; They are my tools, that’s why the box is locked; I need my own bench because then I know I will have a clean space to work. Clearly, there is always a lot of history, but this should not discourage you from ploughing onwards and making a start, history does not always dictate how a future 5S workshop will be organised, only the current required functions and operations can do this.

 

5S and workplace organisation are well documented, but I will give you my Top 5 Tips to getting 5S really working in an Engineering Workshop:

 

1. Engage as many engineers as possible is an open discussion about what the workshop is used for. Keep the focus on identifying current losses in those tasks; time to find, waste materials, cleaning time, task time. If there are time and motion issues, keep the discussion on track to “just for a short period, while we see how better it is to work”.

 

2. During Sort, the Red Tags have to be cleared! The problem with engineering items is they have a perceived high value. This was true when they were purchased, however, they are only worth the scrap metal weight as you don’t have the connections to sell them. If items are spares, put them in the stores system, then they can be easily found and used. All too often you have spares for large items of equipment, but engineers who have been with the company for less than 5 years don’t know where to find them.

 

3. The other main tip for Sort is how to clear the tools. These are often owned by the Engineers personally and there is a lot of emotion attached to them. There are two stages to this, in stage 1 start by opening up the boxes and taking each tool in turn and asking honestly when it was last used. Sort into three piles, one for in the last month, one for six months and the third pile for over six months. Be sure to split up sets of spanners and hex keys, just the ones being used. Document the contents of each pile of tools, get the engineers to take the third piles home. The first and second piles are placed back in the toolbox, the under a month pile at the top where they can easily be found. Now buy the combined tools from the third piles and place them on a tool board / shadow board in the workshop. After a few months working in this way, start stage 2, open the tool boxes again, document the tool use again to ensure there are no unneeded items. Now, buy one tool box for each person on a shift, i.e. 3 for 12 engineers to share across four shifts, buy the tools as per the combined lists and place laminated check lists inside the lids of the tool boxes. At shift handover, simply include the checking of tools against the lists.

 

4. During the Set In Order, make sure that work flow into and out of the workshop is the top priority in the proposed new layout and that there will only be one main workbench for everyone. For the weekly and month repeat tasks, create dedicated work cells laid out with tools and can bans for local spares.

 

5. What really makes the workshop function is having procedures and systems documented for everything; cleaning, work orders, tool storage, work-in-progress storage, dedicated cell tasks and Red Tag clearance. Keep the procedures simple, one page mostly pictures with clearly numbered steps. As soon as new tasks are identified, have the engineers write the procedures for these tasks. Finally, train out the procedures to all the engineers and include checks for them explicitly in the 5S audits.

 

If you would like to know more about how you can start 5S in your engineering workshop, please contact us This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Written By: Sean Cole – KCTS Consultant