Frank Averill, CEO of Averill Electric, Highlights the Fundamentals of 5S Methodology in the Construction Field

The 5S methodology was introduced in the 1970s by Toyota to enhance visual control and lean manufacturing processes. However, over the last several decades the model has been applied in a variety of industries, including the construction field where the need to “do more with less” is not just a best practice, but it is an essential requirement.

What is the 5S methodology?

The 5S methodology is a workplace organization method. Each of the 5S’s refers to a Japanese rather than English word. The roster as it was originally introduced was: Seiri, Seiton, Seiso, Seiketsu, and Shitsuke, translated to: organize, orderliness, cleanliness, standardize, and discipline.

“Some training organizations and companies in the U.S. prefer to use five English words that start with S, and as such translate the 5S’s as sorting, straightening, sweeping, standardize and sustain,” commented Frank Averill, the CEO and owner of Averill Electric, which provides electrical installations for private, commercial and industrial clients. “But ultimately, it doesn’t matter if the words start with S or any other letter. What matters is whether companies are intelligently and authentically applying each concept in order to reduce waste, enhance operations and competitive advantage, and continuously improve.”

There is no generic one-size-fits-all template that precisely instructs businesses on how, for example, to integrate “organize” into their work environment and processes. However, according to Frank Averill there are some straightforward ways that firms in the construction field can embrace and demonstrate all five principles:

  • Organize

Being organized in this context doesn’t just mean, as the old saying goes, “having a place for everything, and everything in its place.” It goes deeper than that, and involves identifying what shouldn’t be in the immediate work environment, and also what shouldn’t be around.

Commented Frank Averill: “Essentially, being organized means separating required tools and parts from those that aren’t needed. Just like homeowners, firms can collect all kinds of stuff over the years that aren’t doing anything more than taking up space, or maybe even compromising worker safety by being an obstruction or a fire hazard.”

  • Orderliness

As with organize, orderliness takes on a different meaning in the 5S context. Rather than just being rooted in neatness, it also embraces ease-of-accessibility.

“Constructions firms are busy hubs of activity” claims Averill. “The goal isn’t just to tidy things up, but to make frequently needed items easy and quick to access.”

  • Cleanliness

Cleanliness means making sure that the work environment — just like the job site — is kept tidy; ideally throughout the day, but at the very least at the end of the day.

According to Frank Averill: “Cleanliness should be something that workers should be mindful of throughout the day, so that cleaning up is a relatively simple and quick task, rather than something that is strenuous and time consuming.”

  • Standardize

Standardize means integrating the three above-described components of the 5S system — organize, orderliness, and cleanliness — into an ongoing program that can be managed in an efficient way.

Added Frank Averill: “The key to standardization is monitoring and enforcement. It doesn’t matter how rigorous a set of standards are. There must be a way to monitor compliance or ensure that people are held accountable — which typically means coaching and training.”

  • Discipline

Discipline builds off standardization, and refers to having a core commitment to the 5S program — both as it exists in the present, and how it can be improved into the future. Ultimately, everyone who participates in the 5S program has to buy into the concept. This means holding themselves accountable, and also holding each other accountable.

The Final Word

Construction firms of all sizes, from relatively small contractors to large enterprise-level businesses, need to be vigilant about reducing and eliminating waste, so that they can remain competitive and profitable for the long-term.

Concluded Frank Averill, whose company Averill Electric has completed numerous signature projects, including the installation of all electrical system in Boston’s 100,000 square foot Ray and Joan Kroc Community Center, and the installation of all electrical, communications, fire alarm, intrusion, and A/V systems for Emerson College’s Colonial Building Dormitory: “While the 5S methodology certainly isn’t the only approach that achieves these all-important goals, it is certainly among the most well-known and widely adopted — not because it’s trendy, but because it works.”