Putting the 'S' into wipers

17 February 2016

The Five S principle sets out a clear method for streamlining work practices and creating an efficient, smoothly-run workplace. Rachel Thompson from Tork manufacturer SCA explains how a good system of disposable wipers and cloths can support the Five S ethos and make industrial premises more productive

Manufacturing plants and workshops are often dirty, untidy places where oily spills can occur at any time.


Tools and soiled rags may be strewn around the worktops and operatives tend to waste a great deal of time hunting around for the equipment they need.


Some mess will be inevitable in a factory where substances such as oil, grease, solvent and paint may be used on a daily basis. But an untidy workplace will be run far less efficiently than one where everything has its place and where staff can lay their hands on any tool or wiper whenever they need it.


A chaotic appearance will also make a poor impression on customers when visiting the premises and many organisations are now recognising the need to create smarter, more streamlined workspaces. It is also becoming widely understood that cleanliness and tidiness in the working environment can reduce down time and improve efficiency. 


One of the most commonly-used business models today is the Japanese 5S methodology. This sets out guidelines for organising shared work environments to improve morale, safety and efficiency. 

The methodology has five fundamental elements: Sorting, or removing all but the most essential items from the workplace; Setting in order, or arranging equipment in a way to promote the most efficient workflow; 'Shining', or keeping the workplace clean and uncluttered; Standardising all work practices to keep them consistent; and Sustaining these procedures on a day-to-day basis.

Using a disposable wiping system in place of rags or rental cloths will support the 5S approach since it will ensure that all wiping and cleaning products are ready for use at the point of delivery. Mixed rags usually require sorting before use to weed out any that are non-absorbent, stained or that contain zips or other fasteners – and this can be an inefficient and time-consuming process.

Where cloths and wipers are automatically disposed of after use, too, there will no longer be any likelihood of soiled rags or rental cloths being left behind to clutter up the workplace.

A smart dispensing system for wipers and cloths will facilitate the Japanese 5S work model. This will 'Sort' the environment by removing the need for abandoned rags and loose wiper rolls to be left lying around on the work surfaces. 


Wiper dispensers will also 'Set in order' the premises when positioned in the right place for optimum workflow since this will help to improve productivity. Eye-catching dispensers that are either wall-mounted or placed in easy-to-spot positions will become a familiar sight to operatives who will automatically head for them when they need a wiper, reducing the amount of time they are away from their workspace.


A cohesive dispenser system will also improve the appearance of the workshop and provide a 'Shining', uncluttered image. Tork Performance dispensers, for example, have a striking red/smoke housing that make them easy for staff to spot while also helping to 'Shine' the surroundings.

Meanwhile, the fact that all wipers are clean and ready for use, combined with their matching dispensers, will help to 'standardise' work practices in an industrial environment. Standardisation improves both productivity and employee morale by eliminating inefficient and frustrating practices. When equipment is stored in the same place, employees become more productive and are less likely to have to waste time hunting around the premises for what they need. 


Ensuring that the floor stays clear of clutter through standardised, streamlined processes will also result in fewer spills while reducing the risk of accidents. 

Sustaining any new initiative can be a challenge, but regular audits will help the team stays on track. And once the wiper dispensers have become part of the daily process, their regular use will be incorporated into the operative’s working life and become 'Sustained'. 

So clean, uniform wiping products and smart dispensing systems can make the workplace both more attractive and more efficient – while reducing waste and potentially increasing productivity. For this reason, disposable wipers should be an essential element of any 5S workplace.