5S process and (c)lean Factory

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5S process and (c)lean Factory

Thanks to a survey conducted at the beginning of 2020, we noticed that there was a lot of frustration among workers about the state of the factory at that time. It was not always clean, unnecessary items were scattered around the factory, workers often had to search for the tools they needed, machines repeatedly broke down and repairs could take a long time... Recognisable? Well, it caused frustration among STAS employees and safety, productivity and quality suffered. We recognised this problem and rolled up our sleeves to solve it as efficiently and sustainably as possible. That is why we launched the 5S process: Clean factory.

I can already hear you thinking: "5S, what the hell is that?” 5S stands for 5 steps, all beginning with the letter S, which must be completed in order to make the best use of a workshop. In the manufacturing industry, 5S is seen as the foundation for Lean manufacturing. A workplace can be a workstation in the factory but also your own home office. The aim is to divide the workspace sensibly according to how you use it. Tools and materials are placed logically according to who uses them and how often. This allows for better focus, stimulates creativity, peace of mind and higher productivity. It also reduces stress and the risk of accidents.

The methodology originated at Toyota. The 5S words are in Japanese: Seiri, Seiton, Seiso, Seiketsu and Shitsuke. Translated into English, this means Sort, Set in order, Shine, Standardise and Sustain. In short: all tools and materials are considered whether they are needed or not. If they serve no purpose, they are stored or removed. The remaining items are allocated a fixed place so that they can be found easily. After this, the workstation is thoroughly cleaned. Afterwards, the process is examined to see how it can become self-sustaining. It is very important that these steps are completed in this order. If any steps are skipped, the project will miss its target.

What does 5S stand for?

  • 1S: Sort

    The first step is to collect all tools, materials, machines, etc. and to make a distinction between what should remain and what is superfluous. We visualised this by marking off a red and a yellow zone in several places in the factory. Items that can go are placed in the red zone. Items they’re unsure of are placed in the yellow zone. Everything in the red zone is sorted and recycled before it goes to the recycling centre. The red zone has become a permanent feature of the STAS factory.
  • 2S: Set in order

    What remains are necessary tools. Each item is given a fixed place. For this, we used shadow boards, among other things. These are boards that are hung up in the factory, on which a shadow is visualised of the items that belong there. After use, the tools are hung back on its rightful place. This way it quickly becomes clear when something is missing. The overview can also save the employees a lot of time looking for the right tools. In the offices, this process translates into organising cabinets, cable management and simple shadow boards in the meeting rooms.
  • 3S: Shine

    Now that everything is in its proper place, it is time to thoroughly clean everything. This means clearing waste, sweeping and vacuuming. Machines are also inspected, which makes it clear which machines require maintenance. We use orange labels to hang on the machines with a clear description of the problem. These are also entered into the system so that the maintenance department can follow up on these issues. Thanks to the striking colour, it is apparent to the maintenance department which machines need repairing. The orange labels are fully integrated in the factory and are still being used to this day. Due to this step, we can prevent breakdowns, carry out repairs faster and optimise quality and safety in the workplace.


  • 4S: Standardise

    By this point, the workplace looks completely different. Now we are going to set up systems to prevent us from going back to the initial situation. Each employee is assigned a zone for which he or she is responsible. Panels are made with clear cleaning instructions and photos of the ideal situation. This ensures the cleaning is always done in the same way and we can always work towards to ideal situation. It may seem extreme, but this way you can be sure that no little things gradually return. To maintain this, we scheduled daily, weekly and monthly cleanings. Audits are organised on a recurring basis to check that everything is as it should be.

    In the offices, monthly checks are made and an annual deep cleaning is organised. It has been agreed with the employees to follow a clean desk policy.
  • 5S: Sustain 

    The final phase is to make the new situation last. New STAS employees receive training on 5S to show them what it was like before the project as well as the overall impact and are thus fully included in the mindset. Everyone is encouraged to take the initiative when they notice things like tools that are out of place, floor stickers or tools that are wearing out and so on. On the team boards, there is a section where workers can write down possible improvements and ideas.

With (C)LEAN FACTORY we keep our factory safe and clean so that together we can work more productively and pleasantly. This was included in our Pleasure Policy, a code of conduct for all STAS employees that was conceived to create a safe, sustainable, and efficient workplace for all STAS employees. In this way, we show that we respect the environment and together contribute to a better future.