What is 5S?

What is 5S?5S is more than just an organization strategy. The 5S methodology does provide a framework for cleaning and organizing work spaces but when implemented correctly, 5S can directly impact efficiency and productivity. Utilizing the 5S methodology builds a solid foundation for other programs like Lean manufacturing or Total Productive Maintenance.

The term 5S comes from the steps outlined in the methodology, all Japanese words beginning with an S: Seiri, Seiton, Seiso, Seiketsu, and Shitsuke. Each word has an English translation that also begins with an S and the steps of 5S encompass specific activities:

  • Sort (Seiri): 5S begins with sorting through the items in the space and getting rid of anything that is not necessary to the work process. This step is essential for removing waste.
  • Set in Order (Seiton): Now that the work cell only includes items that are needed, the next step is to ensure everything has a home. Organize what is left in a logical manner (like in order of the process) and use labels or other visual tools to create a clear designated space for the items.
  • Shine (Seiso): The space should be looking pretty organized now. Take proactive actions to keep everything looking clean and orderly by completing routine tasks like maintenance, mopping, dusting, etc.
  • Standardize (Seiketsu): Although the work cell is set in order and clean, it is critical to not stop there. In this phase you will need to develop organization and process standards to ensure your efforts do not fall to the wayside.
  • Sustain (Shitsuke): Finally, sustain your 5S program to maintain discipline. 5S is not be a one-time program, but the steps should be something that is completed periodically. Audits are a great way to check in on how 5S efforts are performing.

Some organizations choose to implement 6S rather than 5S. 6S includes the same first five phases as 5S, but the last S stands for safety. While some may argue that safety is an outcome to 5S, adding a specific step focused on workplace safety could be beneficial.

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