"It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to Change" - Darwin

5S (methodology)


5S is the name of a workplace organization method that uses a list of five Japanese words: seiri, seiton, seiso, seiketsu, and shitsuke.Transliterated or translated into English, they all start with the letter "S". The list describes how to organize a work space for efficiency and effectiveness by identifying and storing the items used, maintaining the area and items, and sustaining the new order. The decision-making process usually comes from a dialogue about standardization, which builds understanding among employees of how they should do the work.


There are five primary 5S phases: They are known as Sort, Straighten, Shine, Standardize and Sustain.


Sorting (Seiri)

Eliminate all unnecessary tools, parts. Go through all tools, materials, and so forth in the plant and work area. Keep only essential items and eliminate what is not required, prioritizing things per requirements and keeping them in easily-accessible places. Everything else is stored or discarded.


Straightening or Setting in Order to Flow or Streamlining (Seiton)

Arrange the work, workers, equipment, parts, and instructions in such a way that the workflows free of waste through the value added tasks with a division of labour necessary to meet demand. This is by far the most misunderstood and incorrectly applied S and has been responsible for many lean transformations failing to produce the benefits expected. When applied correctly with flow established this step eliminates the majority of the non-value-added time and allows the rest of the zero defect philosophy to be enabled. Put simply, until you have an orderly flow, you cannot have an orderly flow of problems to solve and the notion of zero defects is impossible.


Shining (Seiso)

Clean the workspace and all equipment, and keep it clean, tidy and organized. At the end of each shift, clean the work area and be sure everything is restored to its place. This step ensures that the workstation is ready for the next user and that order is sustained.


Standardise (Seiketsu)

Ensure uniform procedures and set-ups throughout the operation to promote interchangeability.


Sustain (Shitsuke)

Make it a way of life. This means commitment. Ensure disciplined adherence to rules and procedures of 5 S to prevent backsliding.


Additional S

Three other phases are sometimes included: safety, security, and satisfaction. This is however not a traditional set of "phases". Safety for example is inherent in the 5S methodology and is not a step in itself. Therefore the additions of the phases are simply to clarify the benefits of 5S and not a different or more inclusive methodology.


5S was developed in Japan and was identified as one of the techniques that enabled Just in Time manufacturing.


Two major frameworks for understanding and applying 5S to business environments have arisen, one proposed by Osada, the other by Hirano. Hirano provided a structure for improvement programs with a series of identifiable steps, each building on its predecessor. As noted by John Bicheno, Toyota's adoption of the Hirano approach, is '4S', with Seiton and Seiso combined.

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