What is 5S?

5S is a simple workplace organization method which is the basis of quality and productivity within an organization. The aim of 5S is to organize a company’s activities in order to increase productivity, reduce waste, and create cost-savings.

Each “S” is derived from Japanese words and translated into their corresponding English definition. As you approach each “S” in the workplace the goal is to organize the surrounding area for efficiency and effectiveness.

  • Seiri (SORT) – Sort through the contents of a work area and remove unnecessary items. For example: files, supplies, tools, books, contents of drawers, papers, etc.
  • Seiton (SET) – Arrange necessary items for easy and efficient access in demarcated areas.
  • Seiso (SHINE) – Clean everything to ensure that your workplace and equipment are properly maintained.
  • Seiketsu (STANDARDIZE) – Create guidelines to keep the area organized, orderly and clean. You may also standardize the way you work by determining that work will flow using the FIFO principle (First-in First-Out). This means that the first work in, is the first work to be processed (first out).
  • Shitsuke (SUSTAIN) – Educate and communicate to ensure that 5S standards are followed.

To keep the 5S improvement process simple, the following are guidelines for each “S”

  • SORT – When in doubt, throw it out!
  • SET – A place for everything and everything in its place
  • SHINE – A clean workplace enhances quality, safety and pride
  • STANDARDIZE – Everyone does things the same way
  • SUSTAIN – Management must lead by example – Walk the talk

An added benefit of 5S is that is facilitates other factors as well

  • Safety: A well-organized and orderly workplace is a safer workplace. 5S activities remove clutter and 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 and tools storage is located 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.
  • Controlling your workplace: 5S helps to control the workplace by – determining what is needed, and where it is needed, defining the appropriate location for tools and other materials and maintaining these standards.

If you are interested in learning more about how to apply 5S in your workplace, a great place to start is Acuity’s Lean Foundations course. In this course you will learn how to apply 5S (along with a few other common Lean tools) which includes a simple template to measure 5S progress within your organization.


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