Maintaining 5S in the workplace requires self-discipline through Sustain, the final pillar of the manufacturing methodology. The 5S steps Sort, Set in Order, Shine, and Standardize create safer, more efficient operations, but if these steps are not supported and reinforced via Sustain, the benefits may be fleeting. Sustain focuses on making safety improvements second nature and help warehouse and factory employees make safety and organization a habit. Explore our top five tips to help guide your facility’s “Sustain” step for ongoing hazard mitigation.

1. Ensure Training is Ongoing

While employee training helps improve OSHA compliance, don’t overlook refresher courses for maintaining organizational procedures. Hosting regularly scheduled seminars and sessions keeps safety top-of-mind and gives staff chances to ask questions about processes. Hold formal courses and training for 5S and safety procedures to prevent complacency from setting in over time.

Maintain a visual workplace to demonstrate how aisles and workstations should be used and maintained. For passive daily training, install 5S school kit to keep safety signage examples displayed in a frequently traveled area to improve awareness and retention—seeing the visual cues keeps requirements top-of-mind for better reaction time. In addition to task-specific refresher courses, host training programs designed for non-routine tasks, chemical handling, or forklift safety that go above and beyond OSHA requirements.

2. Keep Visual Communication Current

The Sustain step includes evaluating existing floor markers for effectiveness and compliance. These inspections should be regularly scheduled—not only performed when accidents happen. Improve safety, processes, and overall efficiency by keeping visual cues current—including updating to meet changing OSHA regulations or internal processes—and adding new 5S signs and tape where visual communication is lacking. Since floor signs are placed in work areas, they can have a positive effect on production by providing visual instructions for proper procedures, safety measures, and 5S practices for specific tasks.

3. Show a Commitment to 5S Improvements

Investing in visual cues and dedicating time to 5S training communicates a company’s commitment to improvement. When employees have a strong lead to follow, it sets the tone for a safety culture in the workplace that encourages participation from all parties. Once successfully implemented with good buy-in, the principles of 5S can be applied to additional departments until it is a facility-wide initiative. 

For the best and longest-lasting results, choose visual cues that are designed for industrial and commercial use so the cues withstand frequent traffic. Temporary and semi-permanent floor markings can be removed and replaced without harsh chemicals or processes, which reduces downtime when reapplication or adjustments are necessary. Choose 5S floor tape with large, clear text that’s readable from a distance to guide foot traffic through a facility or provide location information, 5S floor signs with universal symbols and graphics for easier recognition, and other floor markings made from appropriate materials for the intended surface, such as carpet tape for indoor directional cues or adhesive-backed vinyl tape and floor signs for smooth surfaces.

4. Audit 5S Systems (and Adjust)

Formal audits measuring the success of a 5S program should be completed twice yearly for established systems and more often for facilities just getting started. Audits are different from inspections as these are meant to be a proactive step to help management gauge the overall participation rate and identify areas for improvement—before a failed safety review or reduction in productivity occurs.

Use your audit checklist to identify and address:

  • Excess handling and processes that don’t add value
  • Slow or laborious machine setup and changeovers
  • Wasted space and inefficient storage 
  • Bottlenecks in workflows and traffic lanes
  • Potential safety hazards from physical risks, ergonomics, etc.
  • Miscommunication resulting in errors or injuries

Then, analyze the results and make adjustments to ensure your 5S system is working as it should.

5. Implement Systems for Continuous Improvements

When audit results are documented, management will have a clearer path to understanding issues and areas that need more work. This information can help define the next steps for a continuous improvement plan. While employee feedback and visual observations provide first-hand knowledge of where standards are lacking, also consult other sources to get the full picture. You may find value in feedback and data from these sources:

  • Customer complaints or satisfaction surveys
  • Supplier or vendor feedback
  • Historical non-compliance reports
  • Incident reports for accidents or near-misses
  • Efficiency metrics for production or assembly tasks
  • Analysis of inventory turnover rates

Though Sustain comes last in the 5S order, it is certainly not the least important step. Whether you need to improve safety, cross-training opportunities, or general workflow, the Sustain step in a 5S program can help you pinpoint next steps for continued improvement. For more tips and advice on how floor signs, tape, and other visual cues support Lean and 5S systems to boost productivity and safety, visit our Resource Center.