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December 10, 2018

The 5S Way is Here to Stay


The 5S Mindset

Packaging Compliance Labs uses lean practices and tools, such as 5S, across our organization. Lean operations, continuous improvement, Kaizen – they’ve become corporate buzzwords around the world. Our own continuous improvement focus is a key part of how we work. But buzzwords require actions steps to prove their worth.

As we expand and grow in our lean approach, we welcome feedback from our clients and team. Experiential insights provide valuable structure as we seek to enhance our mission: Speed to Market with confidence, by breaking down packaging barriers. 

One of the key tactics we use is “5S.”How does a corporate “continuous improvement” approach affect clients? Let’s take a walk down the lean path at PCL.

What Does 5S Stand For?

The 5 S’s are: Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize and Sustain. It is a five-step organizational system. Their purpose is to reduce waste and increase work efficiency wherever they are applied.

The PCL 5S system is designed to promote efficient project throughput, with quality, in three ways, by: reducing waiting time, eliminating extra/unproductive motions and ending unnecessary transportation steps.

It’s pretty straightforward to see how those practices would get projects through a lab more quickly, but how about the “with confidence” mandate?

Just like the saying “slow is smooth, and smooth is fast,” our team has a results-driven attitude. Tools like a 5S system bring clarity and assurance that the methods developed within 5S will truly enable us to work smarter.

Applying 5S to a Dynamic Laboratory Environment

The Packaging Compliance Labs team Sorted our lab by going through all equipment, materials, and tools. The purpose of each item was contemplated to understand what is relevant, who uses it, and if it is really needed.

Understanding process work flow is critical to improving project efficiency. At PCL, we address projects in six phases: receiving, conditioning (and/or accelerated aging), transit simulation, integrity testing, and disposition and shipping. PCL took the Set in Order step as an opportunity to better our lab by placing equipment, materials, and tools in these relevant locations with labeling to improve visibility and communication to our team.

The next step may seem obvious, but to put it in words, the essence of “Shine is to bring a repeatable plan to keep all equipment and workspaces clean. In a laboratory environment that specializes in the medical device and pharmaceutical industries, the expectation for every client’s product-package system is to maintain sterility and integrity of the SBS Packaging Compliance Labs is well-suited for supporting the sterile and particular nature of the medical and pharmaceutical industries.

The last two steps— Standardize and Sustain —are essential to a successful 5S system. Well-documented work standards and protocols must be created and assigned to specific team members. This results in two benefits: accountability and proactivity while sustaining order. We have found our 5S system to be immensely effective in producing consistently high quality outcomes throughout our day-to-day workloads.

5S at PCL from the Lab Technician’s Perspective

A worthy approach requires a team effort and relies heavily on a universal commitment to sustaining it! One of the ways our system works is that each lab technician is assigned a 5S zone. They own it—and are accountable for its maintenance and continuous improvement.

“Using the system and creating a clear method has helped make our lives easier by being more organized, efficient, and ultimately more successful and less stressful” – Sydney Eggleston, Lab Technician II

Sydney is accountable for PCL’s controlled environment room (CER), which holds the majority of the package integrity testing equipment. One-way Sydney champions the CER is by taping off specific locations for test equipment and their residual consumable and preventative maintenance materials. This is crucial for maintaining the Sort and Set in Order phases of the 5S process to mitigate the risk of waste and excess.

Sydney is posed with an interesting challenge by being held accountable for maintaining the CER. At Packaging Compliance Labs, we are continually adding new test methods to our scope, which entails acquiring new equipment. The onboarding of new equipment requires going through the 5-step process system.

Sydney’s example is an illustration of the collective work ethic of the PCL team, for the benefit of our clients. We’re ready to put our continuous improvement system to work for your project.

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