Why Mining Companies Should Embrace 6S and Lean Warehousing

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If you’re looking for a way to increase safety and efficiencies in your mining operations, using “Lean” methods will help you accomplish that. This Japanese system has swept through global industries, eliminating waste in its path. While 5S has helped mining companies accomplish Lean objectives, many have called for a greater focus on warehouse safety. With the addition of a sixth step, mining organizations are using Lean practices to increase warehouse productivity without sacrificing safety. For workers employed in harsh and hazardous environments, 6S is especially effective in securing worker safety.

Learn what the 6S methodology stands for and how it can help your mining business eliminate warehouse waste safely.

Why Lean?

Lean is all about cutting out unnecessary processes. Originally developed by Toyota as the Toyota Production System (TPS), this system revolves around customer satisfaction and profitability. Everything your business does should provide direct value to the customer. Anything that does not provide value is considered waste. One study suggests that up to 60 percent of a typical company’s processes could be eliminated using Lean techniques.

Tidying up With 6S

The 6S system serves as an addition to Toyota’s 5S system. 5S is a Lean process that was developed with the primary goal of improving workplace organization. With the addition of a sixth step, the process now includes safety as an overall base for each step in the methodology. Businesses should keep safety on the forefront of all solutions when improving organizational efficiency.

Here are the six steps included in the 6S process:

  1. Sort – Your warehouse may house inventory for multiple projects ranging from capital projects to everyday use. Incorporate this step into your warehouse by creating a segmented area that differentiates between projects and is visually recognizable by everyone. For capital projects, fencing or taping off the area helps employees know where shipped-in supplies should be stored. Sorting also includes creating a plan for uncommonly used products like recycling, returns, and products that need to be sent to another location.
  2. Set in Order – For everyday inventory and commonly used products, place these in easy-to-reach locations. Day-to-day equipment should also be kept in accessible places. Less common inventory can be stored toward the back of the shelf.
  3. Shine – It’s important that personnel keep work areas clean. Maintaining a healthy work environment means making sure that items or products work and are free of dirt and debris.
  4. Standardize – Define a system that creates consistency across warehouses or storerooms. For instance, the same item should be stored in the same place across multiple warehouse locations.
  5. Sustain – This step involves constant monitoring and evaluation of implemented procedures. Management should monitor procedures to make sure Lean processes are working as intended. Are employees following these rules? If processes aren’t working or employees aren’t participating, try to get to the bottom of the issue. When there’s a valid concern, re-evaluate the process. 
  6. Safety – Every step in the process should incorporate safety, as well as promote it. Safety is included in every preceding step. For each process you implement, make sure that potential hazards haven’t gone unnoticed. Establishing safety initiatives should be an integral part of each 5S step.

The Power of Lean

By implementing Lean techniques and the 6S approach, mining businesses can more effectively assess safety, productivity and quality. Having a more organized warehouse means you can reduce multiple handlings of received pallets and materials. Relocating fast-moving items to closer proximity of shipping reduces travel distances and pick-to-ship cycle times, all while improving productivity. By reconfiguring workstations, organizations can eliminate congestion, clutter and wasted space. At the same time, you can improve ergonomics, safety and storage utilization. Implementing a 6S program can help mining companies maintain and sustain improvements in safety, productivity and quality.

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