5S method vs. workplace ergonomics

Does the workplace ergonomics affects costs of a process?

Accurate and ergonomically designed workstation makes work much more pleasant and efficient for the employee. Workplace should be designed in accordance with the 5S method. In a daily tasks execution there are many minor things that may be invisible at a first glance but for people working on a given position they are very noticeable. Too low surface of a work desk cause continuous bending that is destructive for the spine and makes the a persons body feel tired after a whole day of work. Lower back pain are the often symptoms. Is it a long distance when a trash bin is 5 meters away from a desk? Yes it is, if an employee throws something into trash bin 10 times a day and he or she walks a distance of around 20 meters. Multiplying this by the workdays in a year it shows an enormous amount of time – 250×20 = 5000m (5km). Convert it into time – 40 seconds x 10 x 250 = 100000sek = 28h. Employee wastes more than 24 work hours a year to overcome long distances starting from his desk and walking to the place where the trash bin has been located. All items and components needed to complete tasks but being scattered in the room not only make the work more difficult but also more exhausting.

Ergonomics and 5S method deal with persons psychophysical adjustments which refers to the state of workplace adapted to the employee and optimal for proper performance of duties. Perfectly adapted workplace has a desk with a suitable height, comfortable and contoured seat, appropriate lighting depending on type and precision of the activities and tools at one’s fingertips (namely the most commonly used tools) – principles of 5S method. The distribution of workplaces should be closely linked with the order of activities occurring in the process. If the distribution of workplaces and rooms agrees with the process tasks order it can be defined as a smooth process and the execution time is shorter than if the position were set in a chaotic way.

Process performance is an indicator that informs the owner of the process about how often a task gets executed – service (how many tasks are executed within a specified time period). The purpose of analysis and observations of a process is its optimization not only in financial terms but also physically. The satisfaction reaches both management and operational staff. Direct observation is a necessity for the process in order to find bottlenecks, problems encountered by the operational staff or any waste that prolongs the process or interrupts it. By collecting feedback from employees directly involved in a process and by making observations, you can collect a lot of valuable information to improve the process. It is important to remember that it’s better to improve the process by 30% than not taking any action. Kaizen philosophy encourages to take “small steps”, which ultimately can produce outstanding achievements

What tools should be used in order to analyze and implement the 5S method?

First of all you need to know the process and the flow of material and information. Despite the available procedures and instructions clearly outlining the requirements and process flow, you should collect the information directly in the GEMBA. Flowchart or VSM – visual stream mapping – can be helpful.

Another tool should be the spaghetti plot (diagram) and here is where you can find more details about it.

On the basis of a diagram it is possible to draw a conclusion about the frequency of staff movement, the places and directions of movement, noticeable problems and activities that don’t bring added value to the process. The result is a visual path displaying workers flow in a process. In order to resolve the identified problems and waste the first tool should be 5S. This is a methodology concerning the arrangement of workplaces. There are also some IT solutions to measure the flow of a particular employee. Such a project should be considered in juxtaposition with similar possibilities and financial analysis.

In conclusion, the analysis of a workplace is a very important aspect of a development process and replace old habits with new solutions. If you’re interested in our analysis feel free to contact us or to try out our services.