What is 5S?

5S is a reference to a list of five Japanese words which 'start' with S. The 5S method is a structured program to implement workplace organization and standardization. 5S improves safety, work efficiency, improves productivity and establishes a sense of ownership. And a well organized workplace motivates people. It is also a system to reduce waste and optimize productivity through maintaining an orderly workplace and using visual cues to achieve more consistent operational results. Implementation of this method "cleans up" and organizes the workplace basically in its existing configuration, and it is typically the first lean method which organizations implement.

The key targets of 5S are workplace morale and efficiency. The assertion of 5S is, by assigning everything a location, time is not wasted by looking for things. Additionally, it is quickly obvious when something is missing from its designated location. 5S advocates believe the benefits of this methodology come from deciding what should be kept, where it should be kept, and how it should be stored. This decision making process usually comes from a dialog about standardization which builds a clear understanding, between employees, of how work should be done. It also instills ownership of the process in each employee.

The 5S's are:

  • Seiri (整理): Sorting. Refers to the practice of going through all the tools, materials, etc., in the work area and keeping only essential items. Everything else is stored or discarded. This leads to fewer hazards and less clutter to interfere with productive work.

  • Seiton (整頓): Set in Order / Simplifying. Focuses on the need for an orderly workplace. "Orderly" in this sense means arranging the tools and equipment in an order that promotes work flow. Tools and equipment should be kept where they will be used, and the process should be ordered in a manner that eliminates extra motion.

  • Seisō (清掃): Sweeping, Systematic Cleaning, or Shining. Indicates the need to keep the workplace clean as well as neat. Cleaning in Japanese companies is a daily activity. At the end of each shift, the work area is cleaned up and everything is restored to its place. Making it easy to know what goes where and to know when everything is where it should be are essential here. The key point is that maintaining cleanliness should be part of the daily work - not an occasional activity initiated when things get too messy.

  • Seiketsu (清潔): Standardizing. This refers to standardized work practices. It refers to more than standardized cleanliness (otherwise this would mean essentially the same as "systemized cleanliness"). This means operating in a consistent and standardized fashion. Everyone knows exactly what his or her responsibilities are. In part this follows from Seiton where the order of a workplace should reflect the process of work, these imply standardised work practice and workstation layout.

  • Shitsuke (): Sustaining. Refers to maintaining and reviewing standards. Once the previous 4S's have been established they become the new way to operate. Maintain the focus on this new way of operating, and do not allow a gradual decline back to the old ways of operating. However, when an issue arises such as a suggested improvement or a new way of working, or a new tool, or a new output requirement then a review of the first 4S's is appropriate.

The 5S management program facilitates an excellent performance:

Safety: a well organized and orderly workplace is a safer workplace. 5S activities remove clutter, visual indicators alarm people for hazardous situations.

Improving production efficiency: 5S supports a smooth production process in various ways. Searching for tools is eliminated, flow principles are applied, tools storage is done where they are needed most. Location indicators visualize how things have been organized, and non-conformities are seen at once.

Quality improvement: Daily activities like inspection help to keep the production process in the right condition. Defects are prevented, because deviations are spotted before they result into defects.

Proper discipline keeps the 5S circle in motion. It is a cyclical methodology: sort, set in order, shine, standardize, sustain the cycle. This results in continuous improvement.

Note: 5S efforts almost always improve workplace safety, operator morale, quality, and throughput. It can also be very impressive to visiting customers and prospective clients. It's application is not limited to Industries but also in your own home, Try it Yourself!!

"5S" "5S" Reviewed by Vernon Joseph Go on Friday, January 25, 2008 Rating: 5

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