Introducing the system
“5S” is a method to create a safer, cleaner, and better-organized workplace, using five
; Seiri – “Sort”
; Seiton – “Set in Order”
; Seiso – “Shiny Clean”
; Seiketsu – “Standardized Cleanup”
; Shitsuke – “Sustain” (sometimes “Sustained Discipline”)
This article is a basic introduction and overview for each of these steps, which should be followed in sequence. Later articles cover each stage in more depth.
It is possible to start a 5S program in just one department or area. This allows
management to fine-tune the approach and adapt it to the specific workplace. Running a pilot project also permits a group of employees to learn what to do and how to do it. For example, suppose a factory has a centralized team for equipment maintenance, but separate workers for various processes. The maintenance team will be involved everywhere. They might be overwhelmed by an initial factory-wide project, but do well in one area at a time. Also, once they learn from the pilot project, they will bring their new expertise to each new area.
Seiri – “Sort”
Seiri means “to sort” or organize. It is the first stage of the 5S method.
Sorting is a team activity. Production and maintenance workers should carry this out together.
The goals of Seiri are:
; Remove unnecessary objects
; Reduce waste
The basic tool is a red tag: tag the item, allow a month for someone to make a case for keeping that item; and discard the item after that month.
The additional tool is the 5S Sort List: a log to follow up every red tag.
Remove unnecessary objects
This phase should identify and eliminate things like a bin of parts that were rejected and will never be reworked; broken or “custom” tools – anything jerry-rigged from string and
duct tape; obsolete spare parts, inventory, and even documentation or binders. If you don’t need it: sell it or scrap it. If you need it but it is broken or hazardous: fix it properly.
This identifies the hindrances, and goes beyond simple “waste material”:
; Do we lack work instructions that are available, accurate, and used?
; Are there hazards: clutter; missing safety guards; electrical faults; broken steps on
; What environmental hazards are we tolerating? Look for solids, liquids, gasses,
; Are tools broken, missing or inadequate?
; Are workbenches at the right height? Are chairs too low for some workers?
Where have back injuries occurred?
; Where has maintenance been neglected – whether for equipment or buildings?
Seiton – “Set in Order”
The principle here is to keep things in their proper places. One guide to proper placement is to keep frequently-used items handy, and store other things where they can be found. On a personal level, you might carry a pen in your pocket because you jot notes all day. You keep your winter coat in a closet at home during the summer. Another example is how you should arrange your kitchen. You probably have cutlery sorted in one convenient drawer; the frequently-used pots and pans handy; but the once-a-year fondue set is tucked out of the way.
Seiton uses the same concept, expressed for a workplace:
; Keep tools near the place they are used
; Don’t make workers bend or stretch frequently
; Store rarely-used items where they won’t get in the way, but where they can be
The only exception to “store rarely-used items” would be for safety gear. Hopefully you rarely need a fire extinguisher or eye-wash station – but when you need it, it should be
The Seiton article has more details on how to progress from identifying, through planning and implementing the “Set in Order” process.
Seiso – “Shiny Clean”
This is the exception – the only one-time activity in the 5S method.
This stage has two goals:
; Determine and gain agreement on the desired level of cleanliness
; Learn how to make new routines so this will become standardized (in the Seiketsu
Several questions help this stage to be more than just “polish until it shines for inspection”:
; How much cleanliness is required for safety, for ease of use, and to minimize
; How clean should the environment be for comfort and morale?
; How will cleanliness improve product quality?
; While cleaning, do we notice maintenance issues that should be addressed? This is also a team exercise. Clean and inspect one area at a time: equipment; work stations; and common areas. Take notes to guide future work. Finally, take photos of the “shiny clean” workplace to illustrate the new standard.
Seiketsu – “Standardized Cleanup”
This phase draws on the notes from the Seiso stage. Consider the sources of dirt: air-
borne dust; sawdust or other dry powder from cutting operations; splatter from wet processes; or simple trash because there is no proper container.
The results include:
; Maintenance for buildings or equipment, if these are sources of dirt
; Improvements to processes – for example, adding a dust hood over a cutting area
; A binder with instructions for cleaning each work area
; A checklist for each cleanup period (daily, biweekly, or less frequently)
; A list matching the people with their responsibilities
A practical target is to have all workers take five minutes every day to tidy up after themselves – including the time to complete and sign the checklists. By dividing the work among all the employees:
; No-one has a huge burden
; No-one seems unproductive
; Morale improves because everyone has a common purpose
Supervisors should monitor compliance with Seiketsu. The checklists make this both
important and achievable.
Shitsuke – “>Sustain”
Shitsuke is a complex Japanese concept that includes instilled discipline, self-discipline, common cultural values, and self-motivated practice to improve. A Westerner might think of: parents training their children to brush their teeth after each meal; children then brushing regularly; expecting everyone to brush after meals; and (for a non-dental example) golfers continuing to practice putting, even though the stroke may seem easy to a beginner.
This step requires continued management support and communication. Follow Up
Audit and certification programs should be introduced to follow-up once the whole factory has undergone a 5S program.