What is 5S?
By Henry Zupanc - CQA

Quality Solutions.ca® is Canada's premiere source for 5S Training and Consulting Services.

What is 5S?

Simply put, 5S is a method for organizing a workplace, especially a shared workplace (like a shop floor or an office space). It's sometimes referred to as a housekeeping methodology, however this characterization can be misleading because organizing a workplace goes beyond housekeeping.

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 should lead to a dialog which can build a clear understanding, between employees, of how work should be done. It also instills ownership of the process in each employee.

In addition to the above, another key distinction between 5S and "standardized cleanup" is Seiton. Seiton is often misunderstood, perhaps due to efforts to translate into an English word beginning with "S" (such as "sort" or "straighten"). The key concept here is to order items or activities in a manner to promote work flow. For example, tools should be kept at the point of use, workers should not have to repetitively bend to access materials, flow paths can be altered to improve efficiency, etc.

The 5S's are: Seiri (整理): Separating. 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): Sorting. 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): Shine. 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. 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.

Shitsuke (躾): Sustaining. Refers to maintaining 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.

Reference Imai, Masaaki (1986), Kaizen: The Key to Japan's Competitive Success.

How We Can Help?

QualitySolutions.ca® provides comprehensive 5S training, implementation and consulting services.

We pride ourselves on implementing sustainable programs that will return your plant to a renewed condition and keep it that way. The key to a successful implementation is developing self-directed employees. Based on this fact we will take a team focused approach when developing and implementing a 5S program in your facility.

Team based activity result in improved pride and ownership within the workplace. When people feel their thoughts and ideas are truly valued, they are more willing to apply themselves to activities that will improve their performance as well as the companies.

We invite you to call or email us today to discuss how we can help you meet your objectives.


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