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5S methodology: understanding a Lean Construction basic

Lean Construction has been changing the construction industry over the last two decades. While hard to believe given the technological advances, the productivity of the construction industry has been declining since 1964. New technologies have aided in reducing the cost of designs and construction, but they have not greatly improved the management of the construction process.

One of the main tenants of Lean is 5S. Contractors unfamiliar with Lean Construction might encounter 5S tags or labeling on jobsites. The methodology, adapted from the original Toyota version, is designed to promote an environment of cleanliness and organization to increase employee productivity.

  • Sort: The process of going through all tools, equipment and materials to eliminate unnecessary items. Just because an item is necessary, having a surplus may not be. Items deemed unnecessary are tagged with 5S red tags and moved or discarded.
  • Set in Order: Once you have identified necessary items for completing the work, each item needs a home so it is readily available and easy to find for anyone. For example, a shadow board for tools would be in line with this step.
  • Shine: This step involves keeping the work area clean and equipment in good condition to promote a safe work environment. Incorporating a systematic cleaning inspection can ensure this step is being applied.
  • Standardize: Next, you must develop standardized practices to ensure the first three steps are followed.
  • Sustain: The act of sustaining the first three steps. You can perform a 30 second test periodically to access; you should be able to find any tool or other item within 30 seconds or less.

The Lean system is designed to increase productivity, reduce safety hazards and provide cost savings. As more construction companies adopt the practice, both contractors and subcontractors alike will work on Lean job sites.

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