You may have heard of the Japanese word Kaizen or the 5S system, but what is the 5S System and how does it apply to your fleet and spare parts inventory management? Let's take a closer look.
What is the 5S System?
Kaizen literally translates to improvement. It's the overarching thesis of continual improvement and is often applied to warehousing, inventory and manufacturing. The 5S system is used in accordance with Kaizen to promote efficiency and organization.
The 5S system consist of: sort, set in order, shine, standardize and sustain. Repeat it to yourself multiple times and write it down — go ahead, do it now!
Have your employees and technicians do the same. It might sound like a flashback to a grade school memorization tactic, but knowing the 5S system like the back of your hand will come in handy.
Storage warehouses and fleet auto repair shops are a breeding ground for dirt and clutter. Lacking spare parts inventory organization can have a compounding effect on efficiencies.
This is where the 5S System can be a tangible solution for your spare parts inventory management, especially if you conduct maintenance in-house.
Breaking Down the 5S System
Before you begin organizing your shop, you need to go through the spare parts and tools you have and determine if you truly need the item. This is the “sort” phase of the 5S System. Filtering through unnecessary inventory will help keep your shop organized and more importantly, reduce overspending.
2. Set in Order
Everything in the shop should have a designated place. This not only makes it easier and quicker to find things, it also prevents the old “now where did I put it” excuse that we’ve all been victims of. Be sure to use common sense like placing larger items lower or the most frequently used parts and tools in easy to access places.
Your technicians probably do some form of cleaning, but there’s always room for improvement. It’s best to develop a daily routine for cleaning not only the shop space but the tools as well. This will prolong the lifespan of tools and could even help resale value if you ever choose to upgrade them.
Now that organization is starting to take shape, you want to maintain the standards. Using clearly labeled signage will make it very easy for technicians to recognize where things belong. If you have a tool pegboard you can really make tools easy to find by painting outlines of the shape of the tool as it would hang on the board.
As a manager, you’re responsible for your technicians. You don’t have to be an accountant, but you should periodically audit your team’s thoroughness. To quickly verify things are cleaned to your standard, try using checklists to ensure technicians don’t miss anything. To be certain, conduct a weekly audit and note any discrepancies.
5 Benefits of the 5S System
Implementing the 5S system is a great solution to manage your tools and spare parts inventory. Some of the benefits might seem obvious but their impact can be tremendous. Keeping with the number five theme, here are five benefits of the 5S System.
1. Maximize Efficiencies
The essence of your fleet management operation is to maximize efficiency. The more efficient you and your fleet are, the more productive you can be. With increased productivity comes more earning potential.
In the 5S system, each part and tool will have its own dedicated location. Doing this eliminates wasted time spent searching for items as a location will become second nature for a technician. The faster the technician can complete maintenance tasks, the faster your assets can get back on the road.
2. Verify Inventory Levels
Spare parts inventory software is the best way to manage your inventory levels. You’ll be able to scan spare parts using a mobile device and update inventory levels, while the software automatically calculates your totals — even for multiple locations.
Despite the advanced features spare parts inventory software, human error can still be a factor. By standardizing ordered locations for your spare parts, you can get immediate visual verification that does indeed have a spare part and it’s not out of stock.
3. Keep Things Tidy
Your shop is a breeding ground for dirt and grime. The last thing you need is to compound the issue with your parts and tools. Taking the time to wipe spare parts and tools down is more than just an aesthetically pleasing task to make things shine.
It can prevent a malfunction or breakdown that otherwise could have been avoided. Imagine the frustration level and hit to the budget if you had to keep ordering new parts because your warehouse or shop caused too much build-up of gunk.
4. Promote Safety and Security
Safety should always be at the forefront of your fleet operation. If there isn’t a set standard for organization, tools and parts can be left out and cause various tripping hazards around the shop.
Once more, you can never be too sure about your company’s security. Whether it’s an employee or even a visitor, spare parts can be stolen and go missing. The 5S system paired with spare parts inventory software will help prevent theft by knowing where and how much stock you have.
5. Expedite Training
Hiring is usually a positive signal for a business, right? That said, training new employees requires valuable resources and can be costly to productivity.
New employees can feel overwhelmed with information and the last thing a technician needs to worry about is where are the filters kept. Using the 5S System makes it easier to train new employees who can quickly identify where spare parts and tools are located.
Spare parts inventory software can keep a running total of inventory levels but if your shop isn’t organized, your technicians won’t be able to find the necessary spare part or tool promptly. It can also cause you to overspend on spare parts and tools your shop already has on hand.