texas instruments, manufacturing, 5S, plantEvery Texas Instrument fabrication and assembly/test plant follows ‘5S,’ a manufacturing system designed to reduce waste and optimize productivity through ‘organizing, cleaning, developing and sustaining a productive work environment,’ according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The ultimate goal: to lower the cost of producing TI chips and other products through improved processes. The 5S concept originated in Japan and companies all over the world use this methodology to increase productivity and efficiency.

5S can serve as the backbone of everything that companies do in their manufacturing facilities. It is how companies can continuously improve, produce quality products, deliver products to customers on-time and do it all in a safe manner.

A successful 5S program starts with each individual site having a strong ownership of their 5S program. For example, every one of our 20 manufacturing plants has a 5S organization with leaders responsible for the different aspects of 5S implementation: Sort, Set, Shine, Standardize and Sustain. While each site is responsible for their 5S program, TI has an oversight group providing annual assessments of how sites deploy 5S and a system to determine the results of the program’s deployment. Strong 5S programs are directly tied to strong performance metrics. Every year, sites get a score and feedback on how they can improve their program.

The second part of a successful 5S program involves best practices sharing. At TI, we have an internal system within each site where we communicate best practices, and an external database that collects best practices from all of our sites. Each of the sites are required to view all of the best practices submitted and either acknowledge that they already have a similar program in place, accept and  implement the new best practice or not implement the practice and explain why. We conduct quarterly reviews with each of the sites to check and see if they have implemented best practices.

The benefit of sharing best practices is that no two sites make the same mistakes while trying  to get results. Companies can maintain their competitive advantage by implementing successful ideas throughout their entire system while also having standardization across manufacturing plants, so as people transition from one site to the next, they have a familiarity with the practices.

The third, and possibly most important part of a successful 5S program, is the opportunity for everyone to contribute. Every person, from a part-time manufacturing specialist on the floor of the plant to an engineer, manager or even someone in the finance group, contributes to the site and the overall 5S program. Without everyone involved the program cannot be successful, but with everyone involved we see faster and more effective results.

With 5S, there is no quick fix or easy solution. This isn’t a ‘one-and-done’ program. In order for 5S to succeed, companies have to continually refresh the program, leverage learning at individual sites and apply the principles across all plants to take a group, a factory, a company to the next performance level. With 5S, our work is never truly done.

Heidi Means is an executive sponsor for Texas Instruments’ worldwide 5S program and the deputy fab manager and operations manager at the TI Sherman FAB plant.