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You've Heard of 5S. What Is It?

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5S

March 2, 2021—Have you heard of "5S"? That's the number five and the letter, S, and it's a Japanese method of organization.

For at least one experienced collision repair technician, using the system is a foregone conclusion.

“Try to 5S your work space, and if you don’t know what 5S is look it up," says Christopher Segura, a body tech at Pacific BMW in Glendale, Calif., who has more than a dozen years of experience wrenching for the OE.

The method is also in use at Florida's db Orlando Collision, says Travis Mann, the center's damage analysis expert.

“5S is something we’ve implemented and it’s done worlds of wonder for us," he says. "I know a lot of people talk about it ... it’s very process oriented.”

Mann says an example of how 5S works is that tools go back into the same place every time. Take the MIG welder.

“You have a spot where the welder goes every single time—the welder’s not across the room," he says.

Per Segura's suggestion, FenderBender is looking up 5S for you. The original is in Japanese, though the following S-words are the original's English equivalences.

Sort

Examine a workspace and sort out what's not necessary for the job at hand. This cuts down on confusion and and helps declutter spaces, reducing the time spent looking for needed tools.

Set in order

This is arranging a workspace for efficiency and reliability. It goes back to Mann's welder, which is in the same spot, every time. Many shops will also use tape to line of spots for garbage cans and other items on the shop floor.

Shine

It's simple: Keep the workplace clean because it'll make it a better place to work. Clutter should be eliminated by the other points of 5S as well. Mann reminds that stepping over scattered parts loses time.

Standardize

This is where your SOPs come in—they first have to be created, and then staffers need to follow them. Says Mann, “It’s a continual improvement … auditing and process editing. The more you put into it, the more you’re going to get.”

Sustain/self-discipline

Once you decide to go 5S, you must maintain it to make it work. The bottom line is, says Mann, you need “discipline to implement the processes and discipline to make sure they’re being performed.”

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