Using the 6S (5S + Safety) Lean Management System to Improve Safety Performance
Blog | March 21st, 2023

Using the 6S (5S + Safety) Lean Management System to Improve Safety Performance

Lean is a management principle that promotes continuous improvement of process efficiency and quality through small, incremental changes. The goal is to increase customer satisfaction, optimize resource utilization by eliminating waste, and ensure there is a streamlined workflow to meet customer requirements.

Lean management rests on 5 pillars: Sort, Set in order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain. These enable businesses to improve and sustain productivity. Along with that, Safety is a sixth S that has been added to make the workplace safe as well.

After all, enterprises have realized (the hard way?) that proactive safety management with well-designed risk control measures is critical for business success.

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Advantages of the Lean Principles

Lean management’s origins can be traced back to Sakichi Toyoda, founder of Toyota Industries Corporation, who is also referred to as the ‘father of the Japanese industrial revolution.’ Right from its early days, Toyota has been following the principles of 5S Lean to control costs and drive efficiency.

The original 5S Lean principles help improve efficiency and productivity in the following ways:

Sort (Seiri): The aim is to remove clutter by identifying items that are not needed and tagging them in red or yellow based on whether they need to be disposed of immediately (red) or can be stored away from the work area for possible future use (yellow). This clears up space for essential work items that can be located and thereby improve efficiency. This becomes especially critical on the shop floor.

Set in order (Seiton): Items tagged as essential, including equipment and work materials, should be stored in easy-to-locate sites in an organized manner. This improves the accessibility of the items and optimizes the use of space.

Shine (Seiso): Next is to clean the workplace and keep it pleasant and tidy. This is not just for aesthetic reasons, but also to reduce the risk of injuries and damage to products.

Standardize (Seiketsu): The next step is identifying best practices, establishing new workplace norms, and consistently applying the procedures for the first three stages. By creating repetitive routines, 5S aims to create predictable routines that transform into efficient habits. Some of the tools to aid this are putting up visual reminders, assigning roles and responsibilities, and conducting periodic inspections and regular site checks.

Sustain (Shitsuke): The fifth S aims to make the first four Ss part of the routine and be codified as a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) that is implemented continually — so that over time, it does not need conscious effort.

While customer satisfaction, resource optimization, and improved productivity are the stated goals of 5S, safety is already integral to it.

Along with preventing damage to products, a clean shopfloor is also considered essential for keeping workers safe and is one of the fundamental requirements of safety management.

But over time, realizing that employee engagement and willing participation in 5S Lean management is possible only when employees feel safe and cherished – “Safety” has been added as the final step to the 5S methodology, making it 6S Lean!

The 6th S: Safety

The 6th S is for safety and compliance with safety standards by using a risk-aware approach to hazard identification and implementing preventive controls. Every ethical and responsible business wants to ensure that its employees are safe and willing to contribute to the growth of the company. In some cases, operational aspects are given priority as they directly impact revenue growth, and safety can be ignored due to a lack of time, resources, or even an understanding of what it involves and why it is important. Lean Safety Practices can help businesses achieve their safety goals quickly and efficiently, improving compliance.

Some of the benefits that accrue by including safety include:

  • Improved employee engagement leads to greater productivity and establishing a culture of safety
  • Creating a healthy and stress-free work environment where employees feel cherished and safe
  • Enable the easy identification of potential hazards and implement safety controls

By making safety a part of Lean management principles, organizations can improve their environment, health, and safety parameters. On the one hand, it can help to monitor and control the consumption of resources, energy, and materials. On the other hand, it can prevent injuries, illnesses, and death. It facilitates proactive and preventative management of potential hazards and helps businesses continually improve workplace health and safety.

Automate 6S Workflows for Improved Workplace Safety with ComplianceQuest

Creating a culture of safety, and changing people’s mindset to accept a newer, better, and safer way of working can be difficult. It needs constant monitoring, training, visibility, and transparency. Manual implementation of 6S has its limitations, especially as businesses are spreading their wings and having offices and manufacturing locations across the globe. It can make the standardization of 6S difficult.

Automated workflows and checklists can facilitate faster and better implementation of 6S. They can provide managers and employees with visibility into processes and enable the implementation of 6S SOPs faster and more effectively.

Further, ComplianceQuest’s cloud-based EHS Solution provides a unified view of enterprise-wide safety parameters, enabling tracking and monitoring of KPIs to facilitate continuous improvement. This can help managers understand gaps and provide suitable training to the workers. The workers too can see the impact of their following the 6S principles and feel encouraged to be more diligent. Checklists help to ensure that all 6S activities are performed without fail and help with compliance.

Our solutions for audit management, safety inspections, safety documentation, management of change, and risk management further support lean practices and nudge the business forward to become safe faster. With world-class analytics and visual dashboards, CQ EHS will help you implement 6S lean practices with data and insights at the core.

To know more about ComplianceQuest’s Safety Management Solution, visit:

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