5S is a 5 phase approach to workplace organisation which results in a more efficient and often safer environment. Many businesses choose to perform 5S on a daily basis but you should do what works best for your organisation. By implementing 5S or one of its variations the workplace is decluttered, people spend less time searching for tools, safety improves and employees feel a greater sense of pride in the workplace.

The 5 Steps

  1. Sort (Seiri)
  2. Set in order (Seiton)
  3. Sweep (Seiso)
  4. Standardise (Seiketsu)
  5. Sustain (Shitsuke)

The technique originated in Japan and the words used are based on translation from Japanese to English. I have included the original Japanese in brackets above. Due to the translation you will sometimes find slightly different word used depending on the teacher. For example sometimes you will see “Shine” instead of “Sweep”.

How to 5S

  1. Pick an area to work on.
  2. Sort the area and remove what is not essential to do the work. Use red tags to mark items for removal. During the Sort phase it is common to attach red tags to items which don’t have a place. The tags are often marked with a date which acts as a deadline. Once the deadline is reached, if the item hasn’t been used it should probably be remove
  3. Organise what is left so that tools and materials are easily accessible at the time and place they are needed.
  4. Clean the workspace, think about where the dirt is coming from and how you can stop it reoccurring.
  5. Now you have improved the workplace set clear standards to maintain it. This can involve painting around tools or putting up signs and hooks to ensure equipment has a standard place.
  6. Make sure you promote the new standards and recognise when people make an effort to maintain them.

Some Tips

  • Allocate an area for items marked with a “red tag”, if they are not used for 30 days think about disposal.
  • As you “Set in order” place things where they are actually used.
  • When you “Shine” look for common causes of dirt which can reduce your cleaning efforts in the future.
  • When creating standards, keep it simple and visual.
  • Sustain the new standards by recognising people’s efforts and making it part of your first class business culture.

6S Variation

Some businesses have decided to take 5S one step further by introducing a 6th S for Safety. The idea being that you consider Safety in the environment as part of the process, however some will argue that improved safety is a natural biproduct of 5S as the workplace is decluttered and visual standards are introduced.

3S Variation

Japanese electronics manufacturer Hoks decided to simplify 5S by removing 2 steps. The reason for doing this was to make it easier for staff to remember so they would get onboard. All staff take an hour every morning to perform 3S. Other manufacturers have also begun doing this great success.

  • Sweep (Seiso)
  • Sort (Seiri)
  • Standardise (Seiketsu)

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