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Improve manufacturing facility productivity with the 5S system and autonomous mobile robots

Improve Your Facility’s Productivity With the 5S System and AMRs

November 23, 2021  |  Seegrid

There is a framework that many companies use to help achieve success, called the 5S system. The method, which originated in Japan, is typically employed in manufacturing and material handling facilities. The goal of the five steps is to organize operations to minimize waste, simplify operations, and improve productivity. 

Autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) are well-suited to streamlining facilities and can fit seamlessly into the 5S system. Discover how AMRs may be the missing piece of your 5S and lean initiatives and how to implement them in your facility.

What Is the 5S System?

Here are the five steps of the 5S system:

1. Sort

The first step improves a workspace by getting rid of waste, such as outdated materials and unnecessary items that are no longer used in work processes. Tidying up is key to a clean work area and eliminates distractions and clutter. Evaluate all the materials and equipment in a work area. The items that are necessary to complete the work being done in that space should remain, and everything else should be removed.

2. Set in Order or Straighten

During this step, staff will arrange what is left after sorting. Every tool, raw material, packaging supply, etc. should have its designated place that’s well-marked and known to everyone. Consider arranging your space by grouping similar items and ensuring staff can easily reach each item. It should be easy to find, use, and return each item.

3. Shine

Once the workspace is sorted and organized, clean the work area to make it pristine. Cleaning each part of the facility, inspecting each area, and routine maintenance leads to a sparkling workspace that eliminates distractions and unexpected downtime.

4. Standardize

Documenting expectations and operating procedures, including the quality of work and a checklist of employee responsibilities, lets staff know what they can do to succeed. Creating standards leads to a clearer picture about how workers can achieve individual success and company goals.

5. Sustain

Track the progress of your implemented changes. Then, simply repeat steps one through four. Steps can be adjusted as goals evolve.

5S principles can be applied to different situations and jobs in manufacturing, warehousing, and distribution facilities and support lean manufacturing initiatives. The ultimate goal is to make it easier to work and reduce waste while increasing value.

5S in Manufacturing

5S is often considered a part of lean manufacturing, also known as lean production. Lean manufacturing strengthens the rate of production and saves time, effort, and assets. AMRs play a crucial role in several steps in the 5S system. With mobile robots traveling throughout facilities, workers will inherently keep the AMR travel paths clean and clear of obstructions and unsafe spillage or debris which directly ties into 5S efforts. They also remove excessive processes and travel, ensure facilities are well organized, and make the most out of the time in the day. 

Lean manufacturing and the 5S method create the foundation to attaining productivity gains through mobile automation solutions. AMRs can shorten lead time and provide process standardization. Once an AMR is trained to drive its route, it will stick to it exactly unless trained otherwise. In the case of Guardian Industries, a global automotive component manufacturer, their AMR fleet runs twenty-four hours a day, five days a week. AMRs are simply more productive than humans at tedious and repetitive tasks like transporting materials across long hauls. Entrusting tasks to AMRs also lets facility leadership sidestep the current labor shortage and the time associated with recruiting, ramping up, and training new employees. AMRs lower costs of operations by shortening lead time and also allowing human staff to take on value-add jobs. When staff completes these steps, employees can shine a location, formulate updated standards, and sustain by duplicating the process. 

Additionally, AMRs boost productivity not only due to their efficiency and ability to work constantly, but because of the accidents and associated downtime they prevent. Seegrid Palion AMRs have driven millions of miles in several types of facilities without a personnel safety incident. Palion AMRs exceed safety standards thanks to their 3D computer vision, safety sensors, and built-in safety systems, among other safety features. They can see and interact with their dynamic environments.

AMRs are sustainable and scalable, which makes it quick and easy to add additional routes, robots, or entire fleets of AMRs. Helping sustainability and scalability is a cloud-based fleet analytics software, Fleet Geek, which is part of the Seegrid Fleet Central software suite. The software program adds visibility into material flow and AMR activity to monitor and track the progress of implemented changes, allowing leadership to constantly strive for an effective 5S system and lean facility. 

Successful Implementation in the Workplace

Guardian Industries, an automotive components supplier, is an excellent example of the marriage of AMRs and the 5S system. Guardian uses fleets of Seegrid Palion AMRs to take charge of its manual material movement.

According to Guardian Industries Engineering Manager Peter Westrick, “Seegrid AMRs have provided a very consistent, repeatable technology. We have seen a lot of good improvements in several key areas. One of them, in particular, is the improvement in safety. To Guardian, safety is absolutely first and foremost. And the second is improvements and significant improvements in our operational 5S and overall cleanliness.”

Joseph Blake, a Guardian material handler, also applauds the safety of AMRs, especially for him and his fellow material handlers. “The AMRs are safer due to the motion sensors and cameras all around the vehicle. … There's no chance of it running into anything or causing any accidents.” 

Westrick urges other facility managers to take the plunge into AMRs to streamline their operations. “In order to change from forklifts or manual tuggers to an automated AMR, there can be a lot of fear associated with that. Focusing on the benefits can really help overcome that fear knowing that this automated solution is going to help accelerate some of your initiatives that you’re working on already today.”

Leaving a Long-Lasting Impact

The 5S system and lean manufacturing are proven ways to assist and sustain various organizations. Manufacturing facilities depend on making the most out of every minute, and the 5S system ensures their processes are as streamlined as possible. 5S is a system devoted to continuous improvement. AMRs are a key cog as they’re easily customizable and scale as your organization evolves, allowing each day to be more productive than the last.

Case Study: Guardian Industries 

Download the case study to learn more about Guardian Industries' top challenges, solutions, and results from implementing Seegrid Palion™ AMRs and Fleet Central™ enterprise software solutions. 

Download the Case Study

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