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WFHSS - World Forum for Hospital Sterile Supply / Quality Management / Articles / Five S for Healthcare

Five S for Healthcare

Author: Jean-Marc Legentil
Published on WFHSS: 31 July 2011

The 5S organization methodology is one of tools of Lean Healthcare. This methodology, described by 5 Japanese words that start with the letter S, ensures the organization of clean and efficient work. The goal of 5S is to organize production areas and offices and to eliminate waste. In addition, an efficient implementation of the 5S's facilitates the implementation of other VAP (Value-Added Production) tools such as Total Productive Maintenance (TPM), visual management, setup time reduction (SMED) and mistake-proofing.

With 5S, abnormal workplace situations are easily and visually distinguishable from normal situations. 5S allows a better control of the workspace by determining what is needed and where it is needed. It determines where tools and materials should be placed and allows these standards to be maintained.

What are the 5S's?

  • Sort (Seiri)
    Sort all objects by identifying which ones are unnecessary and which ones are indispensable for a given sector and then eliminate all those that clutter work stations. Make sure to keep all necessary items at each work station.
  • Set in order (Seiton)
    Arrange objects and put each one in their place by establishing a specific place reserved for each tool or piece of equipment in order to find what you need when you need it.
  • Shine (Seiso)
    Eliminate all garbage, dirt, scrap, shavings and oil spills from the workplace and check if there are any anomalies or defects. Cleaning is inspecting; cleaning becomes a way of life.
  • Standardize (Seiketsu)
    Establish visual controls and standard operating procedures in the workplace and develop simple processes to keep the work station and workplace from deteriorating because of dirt, oils or other materials.
  • Sustain (Shitsuke)
    Keep a watchful eye on the evolution of the workplace in order to systematically do what is necessary, follow established standards and maintain the discipline needed to ensure that these standards are kept through regular inspections.

The Benefits of 5S

At first glance, implementing the 5S's seems like a simple process with minimal impact. However, this tool is essential because 5S helps organizations to become world class. 5S has a major impact on:

  • Work conditions:
    Well kept work stations, clear passageways and properly arranged tools are some of the elements that reduce the risk of work accidents. Better work conditions improve health and personal safety as well as playing an important role in preventing work accidents. Furthermore, 5S improves the employees' sense of ownership of their workspace.
  • Productivity:
    Removing unnecessary tools and maintaining clean work stations helps to eliminate waste. Time lost looking for tools, information or something else is reduced or even eliminated.
  • Visual management:
    Using outlines to facilitate tool placement, labels to identify shelves and drawers, and markings on the floors to identify departments are a few ways to make work places more visual and thus easier to management and keep organized.
  • Product quality:
    Particles and liquids that penetrate into equipment or computers can cause breakdowns, mistakes or failures. 5S addresses the principal cause of these complications and therefore allows problems to be eliminated at their source.
  • Equipment breakdowns:
    Daily inspections combined with a regular cleaning program keeps equipment in good working order and prevents breakdowns. Furthermore, clearly posted parameters and specifications reduces the risk of errors and breakdowns, and allows the transition towards self-maintenance.

The Essential Questions

There are 6 essential questions that need to be asked in order for events to occur.

The questions are:

  • Where?
  • When?
  • How?
  • Who?
  • What?
  • How many/much?

The answers to these questions should be readily available at each work station. When developing visual tools, we should be able to answer most questions.

If any information is missing, this omission will produce a reaction. This reaction takes the form of a non-value added activity, a waste of time due to going elsewhere, searching, waiting, etc.